Hello. I'm a 33 yr. old male in fairly good shape who started having pain and stiffness in my left hand in February. Soon after, a burning sensation began occurring randomly in both arms, upper and lower as well as my elbows. A hand specialist thought it was CTS (he made the diagnosis without even really listening to or examining me) and had me in a wrist brace which seemed to actually exacerbate the problem. I had 2 sets of X-rays on my neck to rule out bone spurs. I then went to a chiropractor (my PCP was clueless) who told me I had fibromyalgia (my mother does have it) AND CTS and had me quit smoking, change diet to include more fruits, and I'm taking many calcium caplets and flax seed oil caplets every day---with very little long term change. I also started swimming again (only around 500 yds per weekly workout). The adjustments do provide temporary relief but it seems that whatever this is is still progressing and we've only been delaying the progression. The first finger on my right hand is stiff, and there is some mild loss of sensation. Last nite, the same finger on my left hand stiffened up despite the fact that I now do very little with the left hand. Both wrists crack and pop constantly now. The burning still occurs as well. I used to play guitar but haven't in quite a while (though I would like to again in the future as its very important to me) and I do work in IT but my posture is good and I take many breaks, do carpal stretches. There is carpal pain now (a recent development) and I'm at my wits end trying to stop this. Please, any suggestions
CTS sounds like a strong possibility and can be more definitively evaluated with an EMG, a test that looks at the integrity of your nerves and muscles. Not only can it help diagnose the CTS and roughly quantify the degree of nerve compression, but it can also show you if the problem is coming from somewhere else, like the neck.
In addition to the possible CTS, there may be something else going on which may be the underlying cause or just making everything worse. If your wrists and fingers are stiffening up and "cracking" and you're now describing "carpal pain", you may have some arthritis there. This can be evaluated with plain films of the wrist and hand. Another possiblity is a rheumatological disorder (autoimmune) which can affect the joints, causing stiffening and pain. A rheumatological evalution and bloodwork may be helpful.
Talk to your PCP about your concerns and the possibility of getting a consult with rheumatology, more Xrays, and an EMG. If he/she is having trouble figuring out what's going on, the input from further testing and a rheumatologist may be helpful.
I do have some thoughts about this relating to my own condition (a clear-cut neurological problem). I hope the doctor is able to give you some useful information. I will write back once he has posted his answer.
In the meantime, try NSAIDs like Motrin or Ibuprofen for the wrist pain. DOn't overdo it with stretching and repetitive hand motions. You don't have to set drastic limits on your lifestyle, but use common sense in your activities until you can get the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Good luck.
How quickly did the cracking/popping come on? Especially as relating to the muscle stiffness in your arm?
I have a conditon (a tethered cord) which causes ongoing damage to the nerves within my spinal cord. Among other things, it seems to be in the middle of causing a syrinx, which is a hollowing-out of the spinal cord that can happen as a result of tethered cord. This abnormality often hits the cervical/thoracic cord, in which case it tends to show up as burning pain in the middle of the back/shoulders, running down into the arms. Later, there may be sensory loss and motor changes.
I have had many separate injuries to the motor nerves within my cord which have left me with new weakness/stiffness/atrophy/tendon contractions in different muscles. When each new injury happens, what I soon find is that there's crunching and popping within the joint normally supported by that muscle. I'm 32, and so far have no arthritis. In my case, it's all related to the nerve problems, which change the way the muscles work with the joints. This can happen very quickly, in a matter of days from when I first notice new symptoms.
The reason I tell this story is not to say I think you have what I have. But I did wonder if there could be something going on in the cervical spine. It could be just a pinched nerve or slight disk problem. Parts of your story make it sound like the pain is more widespread than might be expected just from carpal tunnel syndrome, and that's what made me write in. A cervical spine MRI could definitely shed more light on this, if your doctor felt that was appropriate. But that's totally up to you, and it may just be plain old carpal tunnel syndrome. I'm just coming from the admittedly biased perspective of having seen several people with undiagnosed spinal abnormalities go through carpal tunnel surgery, only to find the real source of their symptoms when a spine MRI was done to find out why the surgery didn't make them better.
thanks everyone. I still think that my CTS-like symptoms are an indicator of another malady and not the primary cause of my situation. Repetitive motion injury does not explain why the left hand is suddenly stiffening since I 'shield' the left from much active usage. I am going back to my PCP to request a referral to a rheumatologist and have some X-rays (more of hand), bloodwork and EMG.
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