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Subject: carpal tunnel, arthritis
From: Chris Tacker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 1994 13:47:22 -0500
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> A current subject on a pipers network has been "Carpal Tunnel System",
> John Walsh had contributed to the discussion there. It seems to be a
> problem with joints of the hands, numbness was discussed, I have
> trouble sometime with my left wrist/fingers when playing the whistle,
> I wonder if my computer work and/or bodhran playing are contributing ?

> John .. anyone else .. have any commets ? Seamus

Yes, I have comments, because I've been through the entire
unfortunate process. You need good medical care for it.
Whenever your hands hurt, most doctors will tell you that
you have carpal tunnel syndrome, whether that is actually
the case or not. Try a good neurologist FIRST. A nerve
induction study is usually required for a diagnosis.
This is where they hook dc current up to your fingers, thumb
and elbow, and measure the time it takes the jolt to travel
the nerves. If the nerve is compressed, the signal is slower.
You can imagine how much fun this is, especially when the doctor
inserts a small needle into the meaty part of your hand at
the base of your thumb, then wiggles while watching a dial
to make sure he has good contact with the nerves.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of those repetative motion
injuries that computer buff WILL get. It is an inflammation
of the sheath of the nerve that crosses the underside of your
wrist to your hand. If you hold your hand palm up and touch
your thumb to your little finger, a crease forms at the
base of your hand where the hand meets the wrist. That's the spot.
When the sheath swells, it compresses the nerve.
Working with your wrists dropped and fingers
elevated at the keyboard will aggravate it, using a
wrist rest will help avoid it. Distinctive symptoms are
tingling and numbness, sometimes pain, in your hands,
especially at night. The numbness can be relieved (temporarily)
by hanging your hands down limply from the wrist, palm down.

Treatment usually involves either anti-inflammatory drugs
(very hard on your stomach) for a couple of months. A lot of
doctors will give you 2 weeks' treatment, which is inadequate.
Older surgical procedures for relief of the pressure were pretty draconian,
and involved laying open your wrist and hand. It usually
took 6-8 weeks to recover. Newer surgeries are much kinder, and
involve a small incision, with use of an arthroscope. Recovery is
much faster.

I have had problems with my hands for a long time, which turned out
to be arthritis. A good general definition of arthritis is ANY swelling and
pain in a joint. A quick test is to squeeze the joint.
If the pressure hurts, that's not a good sign. In my case, my
eyes nearly fell out. You will need to see a rhumetologist (sp?) for
this. I have found that general practitioners are remarkably
ignorant of the most basic information about arthritis.
I was lucky enough to see hand specialists at the Baylor College of
Medecine, Texas Medical Center, and later work with a lady at Houston
Hand Rehabilitation. I can still play guitar and banjo, but I tape
my joints where the finger joins the hand, like any other athelete.
The swelling is much less the next day. Session players always want
to know all about it, but then can hardly stand to listen to
the details. It's like telling men about castration or women
about a mastectomy- it involves something very basic to their
being that they might need to know about someday, but still shudder at

Things to know about arthritis:
NO AGE LIMIT. It gets everyone from infancy up.
A lot of men that develop it start at about 25. Women
seem to be vulnerable at any age.
The Arthritis Foundation (in the US) has
a lot of free information available. Contact them.

Please excuse the extended message. I hope to save someone
from going through the problems I had.

Chris Tacker

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