carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

during the last years I had aching joints (esp. left hand), numb fingers and other symptomes from time to time during my fiddling or sometimes after an extreme fiddling night/weekend. short breaks with some tension release exercises gave relief.

since I built my solid log house over the last seven month the problem in november and december was almost permanent (numb and needle-pin-pain aching hand) … so I decided to see my local doc who sent me to neurological examinations, which had as result a strong carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) with median nerve signal delays of about 6.9 msec. they told me, a delay is normal because palm joint is a natural bottleneck, but shoul not exceed 4.0 msec. surgery recommended within next three month. otherwise the nerve (which gives "feeling" to the fingertips) might weaken/die with no chance of recovering…. frightening news to a fiddle addict.

who had the problem, too and did the neurological tests? what are common results? who did the CTS surgery yet? what results? any other options beside surgery?

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

Thirty plus years of windsurfing, guitar and accordion playing left me with CTS and I had the same symptoms and tests as you. The specialist said cortisone injections might help but would only last a short time and advised surgery. I had the op on my left hand, it was done with local anaesthetic and I had a dressing on for 5 weeks or so. It’s not perfect but is now better than the right hand but I still have numb finger tips. I’ve more or less given up guitar and accordion, - hands become tired after a few minutes and not enough strength for guitar barre chords.
I took up harmonica instead, found ITM last Summer and I am busy learning tunes to play at the local pub session I go to.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I had severe carpal tunnel some years ago…I ended up taking a few months off of playing and concentrated on relaxation (mine was caused by tension damaging the tendons, which caused them to swell up, which caused the carpal tunnel). I didn’t want surgery…thought of it getting screwed up and me not being able to play for life scared me enough that I opted to stop playing (at the time, clarinet, as I wasn’t involved in ITM yet) for a summer and let them heal on their own. I still suffer from minor bouts of tendonitis, but the carpal tunnel hasn’t returned for the last 7 years or so.

So there are other options…just depends on how patient you are and if they can heal on their own. The cause is usually tendons swelling up, so if they get a chance to heal some, the carpal tunnel disappears.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I think the cause is almost always that you’re not relaxing completely when you play.

A friend of mine who is a computer programmer cut sugar out of her diet COMPLETELY and she said that took care of her troubles, though she didn’t have carpal tunnel, just soreness and numbness after hacking away at work.

I had the same problem; I went to a specialist who said I didn’t have carpal tunnel, but my bones were rubbing, possibly bursitis (sp.?). I played drums, and would get a shot of pain, tingles, numbness, or all three when i would strike a cymbal. I eventually had to quit. When I started fiddle (thinking more graceful movements wouldn’t irritate me) I eventually got the same problem. I began doing yoga and after a short period of time, the pain all but stopped. There’s a particular exercise called the chest expansion that did it; I’ll try to describe it:
You clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your arms and raise them. First bend back for 10, then bend forward and pull your hands over your head for 20. I did this, and one day I got this painful burning in the bottom of my bicep. I held it until I felt a pop, after which the burning stopped. After that I noticed a significant decrease of the pain when I played. Now, it hardly bothers me at all.
I used the Hittleman 28-day book, so look in there.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0911104216/qid=1106746822/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-3072757-5030515?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
If you "look inside" the book and got to the 3rd page, you’ll see it.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I am afraid of the knife, especially in this kind of circumstance. If it were me, I would look to other possibilities. But that is just my opinion and personal preference.

There’s a somewhat similar discussion in the thread below this. See my post:

http://www.thesession.org/discussions/5637/comments#comment119866

It is funny, but I also use the Hittleman yoga book that gyrmater lists above, which looks dated but seems to be tried and true.

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Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

Hi Crannog, I had an experience very close to Crysania’s. I was working in a place where I had to flex my wrists sharply while exerting pressure as a routine part of my movement —- similar to how the left hand holds the fiddle, but imagine doing it with something heavy that you have to lift up or slam down hard. (I was opening and closing the lids of elderly Kodak copy machines.) I developed CTS in both wrists. I tried braces and physical therapy to no avail, but refused surgery because I couldn’t afford it and had no insurance. After a while I changed jobs. I had been trying to coddle my wrists as much as possible, so I continued to wear soft braces (the elastic-bandage style) and avoid movements like the one that had caused the problem. After six months I was pain free but my wrists were still a little weak. I took up some chi gung exercises and also got a few therapeutic massages when I could afford it. Within a year I was completely healed. I occaisonally get a little pain now when I’m not careful (picking up a big stack of books without making sure the strain doesn’t go to my wrist, say), but a day or two of rest and I’m fine again.
There’s hope, and surgery is NOT your only choice. Good luck!

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I find it amazing that people would seek medical advice in a music forum.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I don’t think Crannog is asking for medical advice so much as asking for other people’s experiences. And if the injury relates to, or impairs, your playing of the music, it makes sense to seek out the experience of other musicians who’ve been where you are.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

Tunes! says: "I find it amazing that people would seek medical advice in a music forum."

I find it amazing that some people *only* seek medical/health advice from doctors. I would venture to guess that 90% of the health professionals consulted would instantly recommend pills or surgery for 90% of the ailments consulted for. I commend anyone willing to seek advice and information from the collective rather than the selective.

I too suffer from what is probably a touch of CTS or tendonitis, and would *never* consider surgery. Too risky.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

My wife had both hands done about 10 years ago. A really good doc, and she was careful to let them heal completely before using. Now she plays the harp several hours a day without any trouble. If you go for the surgery, be prepared to let the natural healing occur for as long as it takes. It’ll beworth your wait.
WB

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I would look into a hand sergeon, sometimes its just a matter of draining a cyst, which isn;t really an operation, just like draining a pimple really. Hand sergeons can also tell you whats wrong, in particular with your hand

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

i didnt read thru the whole post here but iwanted to say……..i had th operation….left hand 1983 right hand 1984 and have had zero complaints since
hurray for modern medicine, isay
yes yes worked forme (i was 29 yrs old at the time)

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

lots of experience around here. Good to know I´m not alone. That´s worth asking the musos, too (not only the medical trained people where btw it seems you get as much different opinions as much different people you ask)…

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

I thought I was suffering from carpal tunnel or RSI after playing too much banjo, It got so bad that I could not play for more than ten minutes without my hands seizing up. it went on for months and months before I saw a specialist. They looked hard and could find no evidence of tissue damage and just suggested I stop playing. Faced with that awful prospect I looked for another solution and found it in stretching. The muscles in your hands are just the same as any other muscle, if you over work them and don’t stretch them out, then they get shorter and less flexible. This can pull your joints slightly out of alignment causing the pain etc. I now use a variety of hand stretches every day to keep em supple and the problem has gone away for the past year.

Of course I am not saying that you should necessarily do the same and clearly if you have CTS (which your Doctors say you do ) then this may be of no help. But to others out there who may have hand / finger problems it may offer relief.

Re: carpal tunnel syndrome: surgery? other options?

(I may be off track here, but…). During my misspent youth, I mixed in some whiskey with sessions. My joints got sore. Since I play bodhran, my shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand on the tipper playing side were the first to go. A friend recommended Gluscosomine, Chondritin and MSM, or what any health store will refer to as joint vitamins. The theory is that alcohol dehydrates the joints and these help to rehydrate joints. Trace minerals seem to help these work. At any rate, it worked. I gave up the "water of life" but still maintain my level of stout (up to remaining lucid and best efforts of playing music). You might want to give it a try before surgery options if you are not in too much pain. Best Wishes.