Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia – Is There a Connection?
Many people assume that carpal tunnel syndrome only occurs in people who spend a lot of time typing on a computer or engaging in repetitive motions like swinging a tennis racket, but this is far from the truth. This syndrome produces pain, stiffness, numbness, tingling, and/or burning from the compression of the median nerve located in the wrist and forearm area.
While an activity like typing on a computer can put strain on this nerve and is often the cause of the syndrome, there are many people who experience carpal tunnel without excessive use of a computer. You see, with fibromyalgia, there is going to be involvement with the tendons and muscles as well. I know I say it often, but those of us living with fibromyalgia, need to be very careful to avoid repetitive motions and activity.
Whether we are engaging in computer work or various exercise for the body, we have to be careful not to lean on the forearms or strain this area through various activities that can potentially press on that median nerve. You might experience carpal tunnel pain while cutting vegetables or when trying to perform a simple yoga pose. Be very aware to prevent worsening. Then again, you might not always identify a direct cause.
If I find my own pain worsening in this area, I usually try to identify some activity that might be exacerbating it. Dehydration or lack of adequate mineral uptake in the bloodstream can also contribute to this very uncomfortable symptom. We don’t often realize just how much this can affect our daily activities until we experience the challenge and how often we use our hands, wrist and forearms for everyday things.
The pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome is commonly reported by people with fibromyalgia. In many cases, it’s difficult to determine with certainty whether the pain is a symptom of fibromyalgia or is a new condition deserving of a separate diagnosis and treatment. The best way to make this determination is to make notes about your pain and discuss it with your doctor.
Playing piano since a young age, I have gone through periods of time where the pain in my hands and forearms prevented me from being able to play comfortably. Sometimes I found it helpful just to limit my time playing (which also helped my lower back by not sitting on the hard-piano bench too long at one time)
Make note of times and activities that exacerbate your own symptoms. This will help identify patterns of pain that may give some clue as to the cause of the pain. In many cases, it’s simply another fibromyalgia symptom that may not have an identifiable cause. Carpal Tunnel can also be exacerbated by trigger points in surrounding areas.
Whether your carpal tunnel syndrome pain is associated with your fibromyalgia or not, the treatment will likely start with rest and possibly alternating ice packs and heat. Compression wear is like a gentle hug that is designed to increase circulation. A tool that I often utilize for areas like the knees, forearms and legs.
If you identified activities that are bringing on the carpal tunnel syndrome pain, you may need to find a way to modify that activity. For instance, some keyboards have ergonomic designs that hold your wrists in more natural positions, and you can use voice-recognition software to dictate rather than typing documents out manually.
If your wrist pain is coming from other activities like gripping a hammer or other tools, you may need to take some time away from work or hobbies to let the pain subside. Whether you can continue those activities long term will depend on how severe the pain is and how often you experience flare ups in the future. For now, resting and placing ice packs on your wrist and hand should help ease the pain.
You can also gently exercise your wrist to help ease some of the pain and do gentle sweeping motions along the forearm, much like lymphatic massage if needed, especially if you spend a lot of your time in a sedentary position and are concerned that lack of movement will lead to stiffness and more pain.
You might also get some relief by wearing a wrist brace. I like to use compression wear on various areas of the body and this is really no different. I know some people with fibromyalgia shy away from the idea of compression, but remember this is vital to increasing blood flow in these more vulnerable areas.
Consider Myotherapy, which is hands on trigger point release done by a trained massage therapist. Not all MT’s advertise it as Myotherapy, so just inquire as to whether it is something they provide for those with fibromyalgia.
While surgery is an option for people with identifiable problems causing their carpal tunnel, it isn’t always a good option for fibromyalgia patients. This would be considered a last resort for people that are not getting any relief through other treatment options.
If you are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome due to fibromyalgia, then we really need to address this as a whole-body treatment, because you are likely having other symptoms or pain areas of stiffness at the same time.
Reflexology can be helpful to relax not only the arms, forearms and hands, but surrounding areas that are continually stiff and tight. Sometimes during a massage therapy session, I will have my therapist combine some reflexology for 10-15 minutes at the end of the session. This can helpful to relax the body as well.
Lastly, it is important to be sure we are absorbing our minerals. Avoid inferior supplements. Utilizing additive free and liquid versions of minerals is the best way to go. You can refer to our main supplement page at any time. Or the Adrenal Stress article regarding the best liquid minerals that are easy to absorb and utilize.
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