Join Date: Sep 2003
An alternative to carpal tunnel surgery.
First off, this is just my own personal experience. It may or may not work for you, but it worked for me... permanently.
I'm a computer programmer and I lift weights. (Two major wrist stressors).
Back in 1992 (when I was 33 yrs old), before ergonomic keyboards were invented, and padded wrist rests were on peoples wish lists, I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (In 1992 most people were still using DOS, and the IBM PC 286 was the "hot" technology - LOL! It wasn't until Windows 3.1 came out, and people had mice, were mouse pads used, and keyboards used less.)
First the carpal tunnel started in my pinky on one hand, then the 4th finger, then my 3rd, then started developing on my right hand. It was bothersome, at times painful, and at night worse if my wrists weren't straight.
After a few months, I had 6 affected fingers, (the last 3 on each hand), and pain down to my wrists. I went to the Dr. who immediately said I needed surgery, and scheduled it.
Not a surgery phobic, but reading about how once the carpal tunnel plate is removed, the "nerve bundle" becomes more susceptible to injury after the "plate?" covering the nerves is removed, I decided to seek other opinions, and dove into reading everything I could about it. (The internet was in its infancy, so I relied on libraries...)
I found a "treatment" that consisted of taking around 100mg or so of vitamin B6 every night before bed, and wearing over-the-counter wrist restraints (I forget the brand) bought at a drug store. They were elastic sleeves you slipped your hands into that contained an embedded metal plate that restricted your wrists forward-backward movement. You were to wear them at night while sleeping, and optionally during the day if it didn't restrict your movement too much. This was to be done for 6 weeks, and your carpal tunnel issues were supposed to get better, or go away completely.
(What I know about vitamin B6 is that it's instrumental in maintaining healthy nerves. It's water soluble, and your body eliminates what it doesn't need. Back in '92 it was considered to be non-toxic in higher doses, but I don't know what the current opinion is on it now.)
Being the eternal skeptic, yet, not a big fan of surgery, I decided to give it a try. What did I have to lose by trying this while awaiting surgery? I called the Dr. and had the surgery date moved up a few months, and gave this treatment a shot.
Since this was 19 yrs. ago, its hard to recall the progression in detail, however, after a few weeks I did start noticing an improvement, and continued with it. I chose to wear the wrist braces at work, since my wrists were constantly under stress from working on a keyboard 8-12 hrs. a day. Since your fingers are free to move in the device, I adapted by raising my whole forearm instead of flexing my wrists, and, I put the weight lifting on hold until the 6 weeks was over.
If I recall correctly, it took about 8 weeks until I had no symptoms whatsoever!
I stopped using the wrist braces during the day, but used them at night for awhile, because my wrists had a tendency to curl in my sleep. The carpal tunnel in one of my pinky fingers came back slightly, then resolved itself.
There were a few more small setbacks, but in about 3 months ALL of my symptoms disappeared, and I cautiously resumed weight lifting.
Having no symptoms for about a month I cancelled the surgery completely, and told my Dr. I was symptom free. I did see him a few months later for something else, and he was surprised after palpitating my wrists and fingers, that I really was asymptomatic.
I continued to be cautious about putting unnecessary pressure or stress on my wrists, and for the last 18.5 yrs. I have been completely symptom free, and the CTS never returned!
So much for "needing" surgery.
I've shared this with other people I knew who were having CTS problems. Some chose to have the surgery (not completely without complications), and others tried this method, and found it worked successfully for them as well.
I have to say that this experience changed my opinion about Dr's and their declarations about "mandatory surgery" unless it's something possibly life-threatening, or something chronic where no other alternative is reasonable, and more than two Dr.'s concur that surgery is necessary.
I've avoided 2 other surgeries deemed "necessary". One for an injured rotator cuff (2007), and one for diverticulitis(2002). On seeking opinions from other Dr.s and other therapies, I have been symptom-free from both of those as well. Unnecessary surgery is becoming a "cash cow" for those who innocently rely on their Dr.s advice as the "golden standard", and this experience was just one of those that really opened my eyes and taught me to look at things more critically.
Anyway, I just wanted to share this, in case someone else finds it helpful.