Carpal Tunnel and touchscreens

mikeidge
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Hello,

I've had pain, numbness and tingling in my wrists and hands for three-or-so years. I've been to a hand specialist who sent me for an ultrasound and a nerve conduction study, but neither had conclusive results; actually, the result of one test contradicted the other! As a result, he didn't make a diagnosis, but suggested I could have a steroid injection in the wrist. However, as he told me there was a 2% chance of permanent nerve damage, I decided against this, as I am a software developer, composer and pianist by profession, so even at 2%, I can't afford to take that risk.

That was about 18 months ago. I've been living with it since and it's not nice, but I can just about cope with it. One thing I have done is change my mobile, as I've found that the one thing that *really* makes the pain much more intense and unbearable is those pesky new touchscreens that seem to be on everything these days. Does anyone else find this? I used to have an HTC Android handset, which was basically one big touchscreen, so I had to use it to absolutely everything. The horrible electrical surge-like feeling up my fingers aside on touching the thing, I found it extremely difficult to use because I "pressed" the wrong buttons, so ditched it in favour(!) of a BlackBerry. This really sucks as a phone (and even that has a partial touchscreen too), but avoiding touchscreen as much as is humanly possible does seem to have helped my pain from getting too severe.

The other things that are painful are: pinching, e.g. taking my rail ticket out of its holder, using touchpads (some are worse than others. Apple-branded ones are the worst), and to a lesser extent now I have ergonomic ones, typing and using a mouse. Playing the piano doesn't hurt too much in comparison.

I'd be interested to hear people's opinions as to whether or not you think this sounds as though it could be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and whether using touchscreens is a problem for you. (It's definitely by far the most painful thing for me.) And if anyone can recommend a decent mobile that doesn't have a pesky touchscreen on it, that would be most welcome!

Thanks,
Michael

jeremydpbland
Online

Pain, numbness and tingling are certainly all consistent with CTS but I've never come across a CTS patient who was especially sensitive to touchscreens so far and overall your description of the symptoms there is not wholly typical of CTS so this sounds like a case where the investigations might be needed to help clarify the situation and where a trial of treatment might be called for. You can read the description of how CTS typically presents here on the website and I think you will agree it does not quite match your presentation.

If your tests were a year or so ago and symptoms have persisted since then it would be worth repeating them to see if a more conclusive abnormality has appeared. As I have said to other people on the site it is also worth checking out who did your tests with what equipment, most reputable people will provide you with a copy of the report if asked - if you are here in the UK there is virtually no regulation of who can do some of these things and nothing more than voluntary guidelines to follow for getting them done properly so it can be hard for the patient to know what kind of service you are getting.

Whoever advised you on the risks of injection was being a bit pessimistic I think. We have done 6675 injections in our local CTS care pathway in the last 10 years with zero instances of 'permanent nerve damage' so if the incidence was 2% I think we would have seen some. We have seen a few serious complications but my current estimate of the risk of serious consequences from injection is less than 0.1%- see the section of this website relating to steroid injections for more details - they are often a very good tactic when you are uncertain of the diagnosis.

It would be a useful first step to run through the diagnostic questionnaire here on the web - it is not infallible by any means but it is a surprisingly accurate guide to the probability of CTS. JB

Tony2112
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Hi

I'm replying to your post in the hope that my experiences of CTS and the management of it maybe of some help to you.

I was diagnosed by my GP about 4 months ago. I was suffering with classic CTS symptoms, tingling, numbness and eventually pain, both hands, around the thumb and first three fingers. This became intolerable during the night, waking me numerous times with painful tingling or numbness.

Towards the end of last year I became pretty hooked on rock climbing and I believe this was the underlying cause of the onset of my CTS. In addition to this I work as a photographer which also means I spend extended periods of time on my pc editing.
I found working with a mouse particularly aggravated my symptoms. These were also brought on by everyday things such as, writing, driving, brushing my teeth, carrying bags, basically anything which involved a gripping action.

My GP advised sleeping with a splint on my wrist, this I did on both wrists. I found this helped relieve the symptoms a little and especially avoided the discomfort I experienced first thing in the mornings. In addition to this I began doing exercises to help the flexibility of my wrists, these you can find on google. This also helped a little.

I read a number of forum posts hoping to find advice on managing the symptoms in the hope of avoiding surgery. This I had read was not always successful and may even bring about further problems. For me, surgery was going to be a last resort.

While digging around in the forums I came across the idea of using something called a "Powerball". It was claimed that regular consistent use of one of these little balls could relieve the problem.
I was pretty dubious but thought it worth a shot and bought one on ebay for about £12 second hand. There are a number of brands out there and I'm not sure it matters which you use.
Basically I began using the ball for ten minutes in the morning and the same in the evening. I won't go into the specific exercises I performed with the ball but if you'd like to know please feel free to ask.

I've been using the "powerball" for almost 2 months, regular and consistently small amounts of rehabilitative exercises and I've had amazing results. This is why I felt compelled to join this forum and post this comment.
I still use the ball everyday but my symptoms now are almost completely gone. Very occasionally I will feel a very mild tingling around the thumb but that is it. I now no longer sleep wearing wrist splints, I'm still rock climbing and can work all day at my computer without experiencing any problems. I would say that my CTS has 95% cleared up.

All I can do is relate my experiences of CTS but I hope in this post somebody might find a little light at the end of a dark tingly tunnel. If your at your wits end with this or the symptoms have just started I would advise you to grab one of the little balls, research the exercises that can help with CTS symptoms and see how you go.

Hope this post is of some help.

jeremydpbland
Online

Although there is some unreferenced puff from the manufacturers regarding gyroscopic exercisers there have been no actual studies of their use in CTS and in a single example like this it is just as likely that your CTS cleared up by itself as that the 'powerball' had anything to do with it. It may have been a temporary episode precipitated by you taking up climbing and your wrists have now adapted to the unusual activity and thus the problem has resolved. I think the most important message is that some cases of CTS do clear up spontaneously. I am assuing that you have no commercial interest in the manufacturer? JB

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