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,
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
Thanks for any help.
- Tanya S. Nguyen
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,
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
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
- 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
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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