View Full Version : Carpal Tunnel
06-25-2001, 11:05 AM
Just wondering if anyone else out there has had problems with carpal tunnel while woodworking? I recently had surgery on both hands to correct the problem and will be returning to the trade soon. I would like to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences because I am anxious how this my affect my career.
06-25-2001, 05:58 PM
YES ....I am new to woodworking but I unfortunately choose to do "repetitive movement" activities.....landscape design and installation, quilting, painting, wire-work and building, etc. I have not had the surgery. A friend has but is sometimes still has pain. I suggested the wrist braces to her. I wear a brace on my right wrist a night...sometimes both (often times people with carpal tunnel will hold their hands and wrists in awkward positions while they sleep). The braces allows them to rest in a neutral position. When I am involved in a project that I know will affect my hands and wrists, I wear the braces while I'm doing it. My right hand is usually the one that gives the most trouble. There are different size braces. Keep in mind the length of the brace (how far up the arm it goes) also. If I got careless and didn't wear them, I would have to wear them throughout the daytime too. Good luck and remember to use the braces as a preventative measure ....and stop when you feel any pain (easier said than done).
06-25-2001, 07:01 PM
Last winter I had carpel tunnel and/or arthritus in right hand. I got a brace that helped and almost got me permanently disabled. We all know that we should not wear loose clothing, jewelry, watches, etc while operating table saw and other spinning things.
Well, I left the brace on without thinking and came close to having a piece of the nylon thread that holds the velcro feed itself into the blade. I saw it almost in slow motion and just yanked my hand away and ducked (since hand was feeding a small piece of wood that I was ripping.
I was very lucky. No damage to anything and the wood stayed right where I left it (a nicely aligned fence.)
I don't like to broadcast my foolishness...unless it can cause some other woodworker to reflect.
06-25-2001, 10:33 PM
Yes, I also have been battling mostly numbness in mostly my right arm and hand. I get really bad before the holidays when I am putting in way too long hours to get everything done (and make all the money to make up for the rest of the year...) I wore night braces, which I hate, and went through regular carpal tunnel physical therapy, which I thought was fairly ineffective. I also had deep tissue massage on all the knots (he called trigger points) on my forearms, upper arms and shoulders. That seemed to really help start the healing. Taking Aleve also helped, and just plain laying off working so hard for a while. I feel really lucky that things are better, but I have to say, I was wondering there for a while whether this was the end of my career.
Oh yes, I also did quite a bit to change the configuration of my computer, which I am sure was also part of the problem. I think much of the problem associated with woodworking has to do with pushing with your palms, using them as featherboards, for example, or "patting" those nicely fitting dovetail joints together. And then there is clenching those scrapers and hanging on to the router for dear life and always bending over your work with your head down.
I do worry that I will run into bigger problems in the future, but I hope for the best and try to keep up healthier habits.
Good luck to you. I look forward to hearing how you are doing after the surgery heals.
Missouri Jane (Guest)
06-26-2001, 10:43 AM
Thanks a million for all the responses. It is unfortunate to hear that others are battling with the same problems but a comfort to know that life can continue in woodworking. Its been six weeks since the surgery and although the incisions are still a little tender, I feel ready to start again. The truth about the sucess of the surgery will only be apparent once I start working....using my hands as feather boards again.
Sarah I am glad to hear that deep tissue massage helps, and at the slightest indication of tingling I will use that option. I tried drugs and braces before the surgery but nothing seemed to alleviate the pain. I hadn't even dreamed of having surgery, but after going through a battery of tests the doctor and surgeon both said that the problem was severe and continuing to work could permanently damage my arms. During the surgery (I was awake) the surgeon pointed out nerves that had been completly crushed by the pressure inside the carpal tunnel. Now that the pressure is gone I hope all will be well.
The next big hurdle is finding a job within the profession with scars on my hands. So far employers have been quite wary of hiring someone who might possibly have limitations, if only for a couple of months.
Thanks again for the feed back.
I'll keep you posted on my progression, post surgery.
06-26-2001, 02:11 PM
Keep putting neosporin on your scars every day. It will help minimize the scarring. If you are in the sun, put sunblock on the scars (that should be kept up for a year). If you don't use the block and you tan or sunburn the area, the scars will permanently turn white and be more noticeable especially on darker skin tones. Good luck.
Missouri Jane (Guest)
06-26-2001, 11:18 PM
I hadn't heard about neosporin or the effects of the sun.
Will follow your advice.
06-28-2001, 03:28 PM
Sarah, your mention of deep massage prompted me to do some research on this treatment (I've got a couple of numb fingers I've just been living with for a few years). One of the things mentioned was that there is quite a bit of pain involved for a few days after each treatment. Did you find this to be true?
Also, presumably the patient should do some massaging between treatments? True?
And, were you able to do any woodworking while undergoing treatment?
07-02-2001, 08:12 AM
Most of the pain was during treatment, but in a way that didn't bother me because it was so clear that there was a problem, and clear that the trigger points were disappearing after he worked on them. I experienced a little soreness after treatments, but nothing I couldn't easily live with. I only had three sessions and it seemed to be tremendously helpful compared to everything else I had tried, and I had very serious numbness with just about every activity, from raising my coffee cup in the morning, to driving, using computer, etc.. I also am taking a B-50 complex vitamin every day, which is supposed to be helpful. The las week or so I have started having more numbness at night again, so I'm going to sign up for another treatment and see if it helps. Good luck. Let me know if you have any more questions. I'd be glad to try to answer.
07-02-2001, 08:16 AM
Oops, forgot to answer the woodworking part... I did continue working, but cut way back for a while (to about half time) and took a two week vacation in there too. I'd say I was pretty much taking it easy for about 2 to 3 months. I tried to stop doing anything that brought on the numbness right away, if possible. I also got voice control for my computer, because I couldn't even touch a mouse without bringing it on, but I didn't end up using that as much as I had planned.
Sarah, you mentioned the mouse -- that has been the single biggest factor for me. For a while I was starting to have a fair bit of problem with carpal tunnel; it still flares up once in a while, but is much better. One of the keys for me has been limiting the time that I hold the mouse -- not necessarily using it, but just holding it while reading posts, browsing the internet, etc. If I do something that requires a lot of "mousing," such as working on a CAD drawing, then I tend to have a bad flare-up.
07-03-2001, 12:17 PM
I've found a touchpad to be much less problematic, probably would be completely numb if I were still using a mouse all the time.
07-03-2001, 12:25 PM
Thanks, Sarah, that's encouraging. Since this numbness is probably a constricted circulation problem for the most part, I've been experimenting during the last few days by doing stretching exercises (http://www.shelterpub.com/_fitness/_desk_stretches/stretches_graphic.html), drinking less coffee, bicycling more. It seems to be working pretty well, less cramping and numbness.
Think I'll still try deep massage, since software is my business I don't really have the option of laying off the computer to any great extent (unless I stop this woodworking networking), but the above should minimize the problem.
Missouri Jane (Guest)
10-06-2001, 06:00 PM
Just a quick note to say that I have been back in the trade for the last month and a half and everything is going extremely well post surgery. I would recommend surgery to anyone having extreme problems with carpal tunnel. Anyhoo, can't type for long. Thanks to everyone who replied.
10-07-2001, 12:27 AM
Andy: i've had proublems with both of my wrists for years. and for me use of a mouse was very proublematic, about 5 years ago i switched to a kensington track ball and have not had a proublem with my wrists while useing a computer sence then.
just a thought
D for Dusty
10-07-2001, 07:52 AM
One thing to consider is using the natural keyboard...We have it at home here and wouldnt be without it. When I go to work I find my wrist aching more after a day of computer work there on the regular keyboard. The natural keyboard is elevated and curved so when typing your wrist stays straight..It does help!!! It takes a bit of getting used to, but you will. My husband was ready to chuck it before getting used to it..Just a little FYI...Have a great weekend...
10-09-2001, 10:57 AM
I had both hands done the first week in July. It took about 2 weeks before I wanted to get back at handling stuff. I think that I started piddling about 3 weeks and about 4-5 weeks I felt pretty good.
I have just noticed that all of the tightness and soreness has left my "wrist heels". I feel like I have never had Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. And I was diagnosed with "Severe".
By the way, I'm a male member of the population, just peeking at what you girls have started.
Missouri Jane (Guest)
10-17-2001, 07:10 PM
Thanks for writing Terry. I too am recovering quite well. I would have had the surgery sooner if I knew how much it really helps. Tingling arms and sleepless nights are a thing of the past.
11-02-2001, 03:08 PM
This is my first post to this site, so I hope that I'm not using anyone else's byline.
I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel a couple weeks ago. For about a year I have been waking up at night with my hands numb and have been having pain for even longer. I wore a brace for a few days until my sister showed me some exercizes that a hand therapist showed her. Doing the stretches and taking half of a vitamin B-6 (B-6 improves circulation) twice a day, my symptoms were completely cleared up within two weeks. Doing the stretches once will counteract 8 hours of abuse to your hands.
Here's the stretch (hope this translates to words OK):
1. Hold your arms in front of you vertically, palms facing each other, wrists perfectly straight. Keep your writsts straight thoughtout the entire stretch.
2. Stretch your fingers straight for a count of two.
3. Curl the first two joints of your fingers down and hold for a count of two.
4. Make a fist with both hands and hold for a count of two.
5. Last, stretch your fingers to try to grab hold of the heel of your hand. Remember to keep your wrists straight throughout this whole exercize.
6. Repeat the stretch from the beginning.
7. Shake your hands.
Doesn't sound like much, I know, but it worked wonders for me. I do the stretch 4-5 times a day. I wish the whole world knew this stretch. My docs were talking surgery, but not now.
Hope this helps you out!