A Personal Perspective:
My struggle with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome through the years
The topic of Ergonomics and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are very near to my heart and thus why I chose to devote this page to those subjects. I suspect that there are many young adults like me who may be experiencing the same symptoms I am but brush them off as daily aches and pains. It is my hope that someone who is ignoring the warning signs of a repetitive stress injury may see this page and choose to seek treatment.
I was first diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in 1998; I was 16 years old and a junior in high school. Ill admit that I was your typical computer geek from the age of 4 and I learned to type before I could write in cursive. In high school my typing was clocked upwards of 110 words a minute and I can assure that thoughts of proper posture or ergonomics crossed my mind. Even that short time ago, CTS wasnt widely publicized.
My doctor first prescribed hand splints that were custom molded and fitted for me at a local clinic. The splints were anything but stylish and while wearing them my hands and wrists were completely immobilized. Although I was advised to wear the splints as often as possible, as a student that clearly wasnt an option during the day. A also went through several rounds of anti-inflammatory mediations with little more than temporary symptomatic relief. In the summer of 98 my doctor decided more evasive measure were needed and injected my wrists with the steroid Cortisone with had to be the biggest and ugliest looking needle on the planet. Needless to say it was a very unpleasant event which ultimately did little good.
Finally, after several months of unsuccessful treatment my doctor strongly recommended surgery as a last resort to treat the symptoms. I was not at all thrilled with the prospect of surgery and neither was my family. Thankfully, my mother is a nurse and was adamantly opposed to surgery except in the case to prevent permanent damage so she set off on a quest to find alternatives. Boy, am I glad she did.
Over the course of the next few years I was setup with various healthcare professionals in the field of ergonomics and occupational therapy, which is how I first met John Lane and Portia Gardner-Smith, who were interviewed for this project. I was taught the basics of ergonomics and shown how improvements to my computer desk and modifications in my daily behavior could help my symptoms. Ironically my doctor, who was an orthopedic surgeon, never directed me to any of these resources I later found on my own.
Its been five years since my initial diagnosis and I am pleased to report that I have been able to dramatically improve my symptoms without surgery. I do still experience pain, numbness and loss of strength in my hands but it is nothing compared to the level it was at two years ago. I also sleep with wrist splints that inhibit movement and keep my wrists and fingers from curling up in unnatural positions while I sleep.
While I realize that I one day may have to have surgery, I am pleased with the progress Ive made and the modifications Ive had to make to my workspace and my daily life are insignificant. I realize that each persona and each situation is unique so I am not advocating one course of treatment over the other, rather encouraging that people who may be experiencing any of the warning signs seek treatment and are fully informed of all the options available to them before making any rash decisions regarding their care.