Jul 30, 2009

The Dangers of Painkillers for Carpal Tunnel and RSI

If you have to take a pill to counteract another pill, why not just cut them out altogether?

Are wondering how to treat carpal tunnel symptoms? If so, take my advice and don't use painkillers. When I first went to a doctor complaining of wrist pain, she immediately offered me Vicodin. I declined, opting instead to take her suggested daily dose of Ibuprofin. What she didn't tell me was that continuing to take this drug for over a month could give me ulcers and stomach bleeding, and sure enough, one month later I was doubled over in pain after every meal. When I told her this during a follow up visit, she recommended another pill to protect my stomach lining. This seemed pretty counter-intuitive to me. If you have to take a pill to counteract another pill, why not just cut them out altogether? The Ibuprofin wasn't working anyway. I got more pain relief from heating pads and tiger balm. So I stopped taking pain killers, and within a couple months my stomach was back to normal. My wrist pain, unfortunately, was still the same.

If you read the news with any regularity, you've probably already heard about the FDA's recommended ban on the popular prescription painkillers Percocet and Vicodin, because of their effects on the liver. The offending ingredient in both drugs is acetaminophen, aka Tylenol. Although relatively safe at the recommended dose, so many products contain acetaminophen that patients are likely to overdose without realizing it. If you take vicodin in the morning and later use cough syrup, Excedrin or NyQuil, you just overdosed.

The ban will probably not happen any time soon, but the fact that it was suggested is pretty worrying. Unless your carpal tunnel pain is absolutely unbearable, my advice is to beware of drugs. They usually don't help people with chronic wrist pain in the long run, and they may only mask the source of the problem.

Jul 28, 2009

Swedish massage instructions for hand and wrist pain

The blog of herbs and health has a great post on how to give someone (or yourself!) a forearm massage. Releasing muscle tension is key to curing almost any kind of chronic wrist pain, so I recommend you learn how it's done. If you can't afford a private massage, search for massage schools in your local area. They usually offer discounted student massages which can be just as good as the professional variety.

For further self-massage instruction, check out this video:

Jul 23, 2009

Heal Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Ergonomics

Do you type on a laptop? Well, don't. Laptop keyboards are typically small and flat, which forces you to arch your hands and put undue strain on your wrists. Looking down at the screen also puts a strain on your neck, which can lead to compression of the carpal tunnel.

If you have wrist pain or want to avoid getting it, make sure your work station corresponds to basic ergonomic guidelines. That means that your forearms are parallel to the floor when you type, your back is strait, and your chin is up, like so:

If your desk is too high you will arch your wrists, which is also no good. This is the mistake most people make at work, since desks are at a comfortable height for writing, but not typing.

So what should you do if you use a lap top? Get a second keyboard! I recommend the
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000.

This is what I use, and it's by far the most popular ergonomic keyboard out there. It's called a split keyboard, because it's split in the middle with each side sloping downwards. This takes a little getting used to, but in the end it's a much more natural position for your wrists. Once I started using it I was able to type at least five times as much without pain. It's very, very worth it. Read more about it here.

You can also buy a fancy computer stand to elevate your laptop so that the screen is directly at eye level. Or you can use a good old fashioned stack of phone books, which are free. Keep it ergo, keep it safe.