Repetitive Strain Injury and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A friend recently asked what I thought about his recent diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s my answer:

The key part of a repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel syndrome is that you are likely causing *repetitive*strain* on your body. For long term recovery, change your routines over the long term. Stretching helps but you’ve got to eliminate the repetitive strain! Maybe change how you position your hands when you type, maybe hold the hammer differently, whatever is causing it. Use the splint as a reminder to change your routines; it makes it so that you physically can’t do the stressful motion but it’s up to you to not do them after the splint comes off!

It took months to get to having an irritated and inflamed carpal tunnel. It can take months to recover with conservative treatment. It might be too late to get to a normal state with a reasonable amount of conservative treatment. IE. barely using your hand for 6+ months might not be a practical option! But you might be able to do it! A cortisone shot, and changing how you use your hand might do it. An occupational therapy consultation with a hand specialist could be very helpful. (google “occupational therapist hand specialist near me”) Surgery doesn’t have a perfect success rate and that potential damage could be permanent so don’t jump straight to it! (remember that if you get diagnosed by a surgeon, they might want to jump straight to the cutting because… surgeon). I am a huge fan of using “It’s where the doctors go!” Their writeup about carpal tunnel is very good. Be warned that it’s written in doctor-ese: To sign up, you’ll have to tell them you’re a medical professional or something. Say “yes”. It’s a free and AWESOME site!

Disclaimer: I’m an occupational therapist but hand therapy isn’t a specialty of mine.

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