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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:  

In a message dated 10/11/2004 8:22:19 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a student writes:

Hi Dr Vicars
I'm wondering if it's normal to have severe wrist pain when first  starting to learn signing? My dominant hand-wrist is so sore, I can barely manage some of the signs. Am I signing too "hard"? Or is this a normal reaction to such novel movements? ...And will pass? What do Deaf people do when they lose some functionality in the dominant hand?

Yes, it is "normal." But it depends. Some soreness yes. A lot of soreness over a prolonged period -- no.
If you are like me and do lots of computer work and add signing to the mix you might end up with some inflammation.
Indeed you might be signing with too much intensity. Try to relax. Stretch more. Consider putting on sports cream about 15 minutes before class. Take an ibuprofen to help with the inflammation (ask your doctor if you have other issues like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Motion Injury).
- Dr. Bill


In a message dated 8/30/2011 10:55:40 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, kipruss3 writes:
I spend most of my day at a computer, writing or reading so have developed slight Carpel Tunnel, which can be aggravated by signing - specifically the bending of the wrist. ... How dependent on wrist placement are most signs. If i "wing it", and use a straight or straight-ish wrist position, will I sill be "mostly" understood - or is wrist angle critical to most signs. I realize some signs might be ambiguous - and i'll live with that by signing my idea some other way, but my concern is the day to day general vocab. "Have" for example, has an arched, pinched angle on the wrist... would it be fine if signed with the motion from the elbow, and held the wrist straight? "with" is another basic 101 word, where my hands tend to touch only at the knuckle tips instead of along the whole "paw" hand, in order to keep that wrist straight... I don't know if the slight variations would have the effect of something akin to a "lisp."
Thanks for any help.
- Tanya S. Nguyen
Dear Tanya,
We Deaf people get old and it is only a matter of time until ALL of us exhibit some form of carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or just plain tired of doing signs in a pretty way. There is a fellow around 80 years old at the church I attend. He barely moves his hands when he signs. Sure, it takes "a bit" more of an effort to understand him but it is not a big deal. My own daughter, Sarah, has fingers without joints. Fingerspelling is a bugger but I'm very grateful that she signs to me because it helps make communication much easier.
So, if you do a few of your signs with straight wrists we will understand you just fine.
- Dr. Bill

In a message dated 4/1/2004 6:48:25 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ldalzell@_____ writes:

You mention many times on your website to pick a dominant hand and go with it for signing one handed things. I have arthritis in my dominant hand and some days have to fingerspell with the other- is it better to retrain that hand to spell more efficiently or switch to it only on bad days?

Dear Laurie,
1. Do both. Retrain your hand to spell more efficiently, and only switch to it on bad days. :) It is up to you. Not a big deal either way. I recommend though that you don't switch back and forth during the same conversation because that would become a distraction. But if it is a matter of switching back and forth or not communicating, then by all means communicate in whatever fashion works for you.

2. The real issue here is your arthritis. Are you aggressively fighting your arthritis? Ask yourself:
- Have you read at least 10 books on the topic?
- Have you invested in a paraffin wax bath for your hands?
- Do you stretch your hands in careful but deliberate ways that extend the muscles and ligaments?
- Do you take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral?
- Are you taking glucosamine.
- Are you taking fish oil capsules and/or flax seed oil? ( Provides eicosapentaenoic acid)
- Are you working up a sweat at least three times a week? I mean breathing hard and actually breaking into a mild sweat?

If you aren't doing the above then you should seriously consider doing so.
You don't need to spend an arm and a leg on this stuff either. Go to a dollar store and look for glucosamine in the "health section." Also look for huge paraffin candles that you can melt down for a wax bath for your hands (study up on this so you don't burn your hands). Buy fish oil capsules at your grocery store, Sam's Club, or Costco (ask for a one day "pass") in the biggest bottle you can and store it in the fridge so you get the lowest cost per pill.

I know you didn't write me for health advice, but the REAL answer to your problem is to solve your arthritis issue. Note: My doctorate is in Education, NOT in medicine, so, if I had a lawyer I'm sure he'd tell me to tell you that you'd best check with your medical doctor before starting any exercise program, immersing your hands into wax, or taking any supplement that might conflict with current medications.

p.s. Doing ASL is generally considered therapeutic for arthritis because it promotes circulation and movement. You might want to check into the possibility of having your doctor "prescribe" your ASL classes--thus enabling you to deduct the cost of your classes, books, and travel as medical expenses. Ask your "tax advisor" about this.




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