Today, I woke up with a crick in my neck, a sore right arm and forearm, and a throbbing wrist. The crick is something I’ve learned to live with in the past year. When it comes, and this month, it has gotten progressively worse, I get paranoid about moving my neck even just a bit. I’m back to using the Tempur pillow exclusively, painfully aware of the positions that exacerbate or alleviate my neck pains. My bedroom now reeks like a Chinese pharmacy, the strong menthol smell of analgesic rub and the faint rubbery odor of hot water packs wafting through the air.
The sore arm is an offshoot of my neck problems, although the pain in my forearm is aggravated by another, more localized condition called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The latter is almost always accompanied by throbbing wrists and numb fingers (thumb, index, and middle fingers). When I get this, this is the signal for me to drop most of the activities requiring my hands. Addicted to the Net as I am, I have my ways around this prescribed period of hand rest, usually by commandeering my eldest son’s time and twisting his arm to navigate my Facebook page (“Mom, your friends are all… old!”) or my blog (“Mom, that’s Hello Kitty! I’m allergic to Hello Kitty!”). When he is at school, however, I make do with left-handed typing, which is slow and not so accurate, but better than no typing at all.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve gets trapped or pressed or squeezed at the wrist. At the base of your palm, a cluster of bones and a strong ligament that sheathes these bones form a tunnel. When the median nerve, which lies inside this tunnel, gets compressed, the blood supply to the nerve is compromised, leading to pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the areas innervated by the nerve. Genes are said to account for a large portion of CTS sufferers. Women, more than men, are often affected. Obesity is also a contributing factor, as well as the presence of chronic illnesses like diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disorders. CTS follows the length of the median nerve and its areas of innervation. This is in contrast to Repetitive Strain Injury (diffuse pain in the back, arms, shoulders, and hands aggravated by activity) which is directly linked to computer use. While medical experts have debunked the popular belief that excessive computer use causes this syndrome, those with the predisposition for this are also advised to adjust their computer habits by taking quick breaks, performing hand and wrist exercises, and using splints, wrist rests, and ergonomic keyboards.
Unfortunately, not only am I genetically programmed for this (my mom also had CTS and had hand surgery for this condition), I am also twice more stricken, if I throw in gender and weight (*ouch*) to the predisposing factors. Mindful of this, today, we’re doing a bit of public service for those addicted to computers and the Net by reminding them that prevention is definitely better than a cure.
Again, remember that you can’t get CTS from using the computer, but if you do have it (or you have the predisposition for it) and you don’t take precautions to correct your habits, then you’ll have to deal with the consequences of neglect sometime in your life. Trust me, Bengay smells mighty awesome, but NOT when you’re in public. Take it from Kittymama and the crowd that parted like the Red Sea when she reeked of Bengay at the MRT. Happy weekend, folks!