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Carpal tunnel, or something else?

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in Admins,Office Management

If typing at your desk job causes you to feel pain, stiffness, numbness, weakness and lack of circulation (coldness) in your hands and wrists, both on the job and afterward, how can you tell if it’s carpal tunnel syndrome or not?

The short answer is you can’t tell. You can have all of those symptoms and not actually have carpal tunnel.

Years ago I got all the symptoms of carpal tunnel after doing lots of fast typing on a regular basis both on the job and in my spare time, as well as using an incorrect position while typing. My problems really started after I purchased a keyboard wrist rest, thinking I was doing something to protect the health of my wrists and hands.

Unfortunately, the wrist rest didn’t come with written instructions. The only instructions I got on how to use it came from the man who sold it to me, and he turned out to be wrong. As explained in an article on Lifehacker.com titled “Wrist Rests Are for Your Palms, Not Your Wrists,” “ergonomics experts caution that using this accessory can actually increase stress on your wrists and possibly lead to developing carpal tunnel syndrome” if you rest your wrists on it rather than your palms.

Keep your hands and wrists fairly parallel to the desktop as you type instead of resting your wrists on the desk or a wrist rest. You don’t want to be bending your wrists either up or down while you’re typing.

Even if you are officially diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, get a second opinion. When I was suffering from symptoms, I knew a co-worker who had gotten surgery for carpal tunnel, and he was still feeling pain and numbness and had to wear wrist braces at work. It wasn’t a good advertisement for the surgery. Nevertheless, when he referred me to his surgeon, I made an appointment. His surgeon diagnosed me as having carpal tunnel and said I definitely needed the surgery.

After conducting thorough tests, doctors at Johns Hopkins told me I did not have carpal tunnel but rather tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) of the wrists, which gave me all the same symptoms as carpal tunnel, but the remedy was not surgery. Instead, they instructed me to see a physical therapist and stop typing for a year or so to give the inflammation a chance to go down.

—by Deanna Maux

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