Last year, I started having pain in my right wrist. I knew it was probably from computer work since that is where I spend most of my time, so I purchased an ergonomic vertical mouse for that hand and learned how to use my traditional mouse with my left (easier than anticipated). I iced it periodically and used KT Tape when training.

When the pain increased, I called on my Desert Health team of practitioners to confirm a diagnosis and explore my treatment options. I’ve learned so much along the way and thought I’d share my journey in hopes of helping others who may be experiencing the same.

Medical Doctors. My first stop was with minimally invasive orthopedist Eric Sickinger, DO of Advanced Center for Sports Medicine. Based on the initial symptoms, he diagnosed de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a common tendon issue that comes from overuse. We treated it successfully with ice, exercises, a brace for when work just couldn’t wait, and later a cortisone shot which worked very well. 

A year later, I started getting numbness in my hand that sometimes ran up my arm and included pain in my elbow. This time, Dr. Sickinger was leaning toward carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and recommended an electromyography (EMG) test to pinpoint the source. Conducted by a neurologist, the one-hour, in-office procedure measures muscle and nerve response to stimulation. It includes small electric shocks for nerves and very fine needles for muscle reaction. I enjoyed meeting Reza Nazemi, MD who kindly prepared me for a comfort level somewhere between a thin needle prick and a bee sting (very accurate, but a bit closer to the sting). 

The diagnosis was indeed carpal tunnel and Dr. Sickinger’s recommendation was less or adjusted use, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, exercises and a different brace option. A cortisone injection in this new region would also be beneficial, he added. I made an appointment for the injection, but thought I would check with my other practitioners to fully explore treatment options.

Naturopathic Doctors. I mentioned to Dr. Sickinger that the numbness seemed to be worse after enjoying a glass of wine. He reminded me that alcohol increases inflammation, and also mentioned B6 and B12 deficiencies as a possible cause. That made sense, so I made an appointment with my naturopathic doctor for a Super B shot.

“There can be a correlation between B deficiency and carpal tunnel,” said Shannon Sinsheimer, ND of Optimal Health in Palm Desert. “Vitamin B6 has been noted to have minor analgesic properties which may also minimize the discomfort of CTS. If there is a B6 deficiency in the body, or excess inflammation that causes B6 to become deficient, supplementing with B6 can minimize some of the pain and inflammation.” 

She explained that she treats carpal tunnel with increased B6 (100mg/day) and daily turmeric to reduce pain and inflammation. She also encouraged manual manipulation (acupressure, massage) on the tendons and cold laser therapy on the carpal ligament. 

That made me think of my acupuncturist who I go to twice monthly for wellness maintenance. She periodically used the laser on my de Quervain’s, in addition to acupuncture targeting points for my wrist, both of which contributed to keeping that issue at bay.

Traditional Chinese Medicine. “From the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, repetitive stress injuries (RSI), which include CTS, are seen as a disruption of Qi and blood flow within the area,” said Diane Sheppard, PhD, LAc of AcQpoint Wellness Center. “CTS is associated with heat, dampness and blood stagnation that puts pressure on the nerves.” She noted that acupuncture points, stretching exercises, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are chosen to specifically treat each RSI condition.

In an article Dr. Sheppard wrote for Desert Health on the subject (March/April 2013), she states that studies show acupuncture can be just as effective as corticosteroids for pain, numbness, tingling and weakness related to CTS. For nighttime symptoms and motor function, acupuncture even showed better results. 

She suggested we continue with the cold laser, as it promotes regeneration of cells and can address pain and inflammation. “Acupuncture will also address any headaches, neck pain, shoulder/elbow stiffness and sleeping problems that often accompany CTS.”

Needless to say, I feel that my hands are in good hands. Addressing not only symptoms, but all factors that may be contributing to my condition, is the integrative approach I choose for all health issues. This integrative approach standardly leads to improved overall wellness and long-term success and will hopefully keep me out of the operating room. 

But I’m never going to stop writing, so if it comes to that, I know where to look for a good surgeon.

Lauren Del Sarto is founder and publisher of Desert Health and can be reached at [email protected]. For more information search ‘carpal tunnel’

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