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#54287 - 07/24/05 09:22 AM Hands and Thumbs
hypress Offline

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 132
Loc: Charleston WV
I am 50 years old and have been in the trade for 30 years and now I am having proplems with my thumbs. A lot of times my left hand keeps me awake at night. Who else outthere has hand & thumb problems and what have you done about it? The CO doctor says accupuncture might help but the insurance will not pay. Over the counter pain meds might help but I dont want to be on pills from now on. THANKS HYPRESS

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Arc Flash Clothing, Gloves, KneePads, Tool Belts, Pouches, Tool Carriers, etc. etc....

#54288 - 07/24/05 09:59 AM Re: Hands and Thumbs
Tiger Offline

Registered: 05/04/05
Posts: 714
Loc: Crystal Lake, IL USA
Sorry to hear it, Hypress. I'm not a doctor, but I'd think it's related to "repetative stress", or whatever other name it goes by. The two types of doctors I'd consider using are chiropractor and surgeon. Some chiropractors also practice accupuncture.

Usually specialists are also surgeons, who would have much more experience in your problem. Chiropractors work on everything, so their experience is usually more general. I had a chiropractor work on me for a whiplash & in hindsight it probably wasn't the right doctor. I've also had pinched nerves & had a chiropractor that got me back to work the next day.

It's likely that the insurance will pay if a specialist is referred by your family doctor. If surgery is recommended, you'd still have the choice & might consider taking the diagnosis & pictures (x-ray or scans) to the chiropractor for traetment.


#54289 - 07/24/05 11:23 AM Re: Hands and Thumbs
e57 Offline

Registered: 05/27/03
Posts: 2837
Loc: S.F.,CA USA
Not quite your age... But starting to realize the long term toll on the body from the trade, mostly back and knee issues. (Many of my posts here are from when I too can't sleep late at night.) But have noticed some slight "carpal tunnel", and general arthritis issues. Outside of being something for your doctor to advise you on, I have found that just changing some work habits helps out a lot.

Reduced wieght tools, switched from Klien to Knipex, and Witte for all hand tools.
Got a wire nut driver for my lighter 14.4v (thought of moving to 12v) screw guns and impact wrenches.
Threw the tool belt/bags away!
Wear Skillers pants with a small pouch, and built-in knee pads.
Work smart... Organize work for efficiancy and minimal effort.
Start moving towards 'directing' more work towards young and eager guys, than you actually physically do!

Think about what the causes of the pain in your thumbs are... If it's from something you do a lot of. Like cranking screws, or cutting wire, etc. Think about how you can change how you do it. A slight change in a habit, could make you feel better.
Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#54290 - 07/24/05 12:09 PM Re: Hands and Thumbs
BuggabooBren Offline

Registered: 11/15/01
Posts: 336
Loc: NM
Hypress, I'm a sufferer of similar problems. There are two issues in my right hand as there is pain both in the hand and separately in the thumb making it necessary to distinguish between the two so treatment and relief are focused for each problem.

Hand Pain
First, check this site (one I googled) to see if the description fits the pattern of your hand pain: There's another site, that also describes the hand problems nicely. If you find that the descriptions match your circumstances, then it's likely to stem from what is called "Repetiive Motion Injury" which is caused by smaller but repeated motions such as typing, gripping smaller items like wire or turning items like small bolts, etc. over prolonged periods (months). The muscles around the nerves going to your hand get too tight and pinch into the nerve space. There are a lot of varying words to describe what part gets inflamed, our Co doc labeled mine as Tenosynovitis (inflamation of the nerve sheath) which meant that they would help rehab it though.

(I know nothing of the product that follows on their pages but rather refer you there for a decent description and drawing).

The doc can do or arrange nerve conduction tests to see exactly which nerves may be impinged (crimped but not yet damaged) or if there's actual damage to the nerve. Don't go to surgery without this important step!

Also, the pain can actually get worse at night (and I know there's an explanation but I can't remember it at the moment) but I've experienced it and it does affect one's ability to sleep!!

If you want to see braces and accessories that can really, really help, I've used a couple different items (usually at night unless I'm in extreme pain and then I wear it/them during the day for just a couple days) similar to some shown on . It's important, from what I understand, to get your hands into a 'neutral' position, not bent up nor down, for longer periods of time and particularly when you're able to relax and allow them to rest in that neutral position which makes night time wear ideal. Prolonged use of immobilizing gear isn't recommended during actual use of the hands as it weakens the muscles further, making them dependent on the splints.

If you want to see illustrations of the surgical release, look at 37&A=2 . I can't stress enough that a surgical solution would be a last, last resort option. I've held off for over a decade and regained use and relief by doing physical therapy, retraining myself into safer, healthier habits, finding alternative techniques to do what I need such as using tools made for people with hand/thumb pain. The reason I've tried to find other options besides surgery is that surgery doesn't always work (ask around, ask more than one doc, ask the physical therapists, etc before you ask the surgeon and then ask the surgeon how many s/he's performed and the number of people who end up pain-free but with good functionality). Once you go to surgery, your options are limited if the surgery doesn't restore your use and eliminate the pain. Another 'quick fix' solution that's often offered is a cortisone shot that may reduce pain in the short-term. The problem is that with prolonged use, cortisone may actually weaken the tissue, especially if it reduces the pain sufficiently that you go back to the injury-producing activities sooner or with more strength and re-injure the area more.

Thumb Pain
There are number of problems that can occur in your thumb along with your hand injuries. See ws for 3 possibilities. Mine is most like the third, De Quervain's disease - inflammation of the tendon's to the thumb. This is the one that continues to bother me the most even after I gotten relief from the hand pain and the pain for me includes the attachment point on the elbow as well. There is a good description and recommendations at for tendonitis, including thumb involvement.

I also wear a different splint for this that isolates my thumb and which helps a great deal. When I say "I wear them", I mean I may wear the splint or brace a couple nights or days to rest the area and then I may go a couple or several months without needing them.

And, I use tools that help change or reduce the actions that cause the pain - like a 'jar key' to unseal the vacuum on jars before twisting the lid (easily!). Also, 'fat' and cushioned pens when I write (which I avoid doing most of the time). I found garden saws that have handles made for people with weak wrists.

Best bet is to have your personal doc help you navigate the various options and for you to communicate whether you're inclined to seek a surgical solution or go through other options (phys. therapy, anti-inflammatory meds, etc.) before going that route and then to let them know if it's helping.

I've used chiropracters before and they helped a little but not as much as I had hoped. When I was in an auto wreck 3 years ago I was referred to a physiatrist - an M.D. of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Wow, what a difference she made!! She was great and referred me not only to standard Western medicine but also to the Pilates exercise for therapy & to a 'Rolfer' ( and ) who did deep massage targeting the facial net (the sheat around the muscles) which is supposed to help you move correctly (think tension wires which allow controlled flexion but add stability to a whole system). The rolfer helped recover me from an old back injury (torsion muscle spasm and resulting skeletal twist) dating back to the early 1980s. People kept asking me if I had lost weight or had done something drastic but it was a matter of feeling good & being able to stand up straight & be strong similar to the boy shown at the second site mentioned earlier in this paragraph. It wasn't always pleasant in the area of the oldest injury where I had serious nerve issues but if you hear people say that it's painful or so severe & deep that you can only go to one session a month, that's not usually true.

[This message has been edited by BuggabooBren (edited 07-24-2005).]

#54291 - 07/24/05 12:37 PM Re: Hands and Thumbs
Alan Belson Offline

Registered: 03/23/05
Posts: 1801
Loc: Mayenne N. France
Bren, that's been a great help in understanding the problem and more important, what to do next. I get severe pains in the back of my left hand after a lot of woodturning or hand planing, where a tight grip is needed. I'd just like to say thankyou for the effort and time you have put into this post.

Wood work but can't!

#54292 - 07/24/05 04:22 PM Re: Hands and Thumbs
luckyshadow Offline

Registered: 01/04/05
Posts: 305
Loc: Maryland USA
People tend to have the pain worse at night, due to the fact that most people make a fist and curl the wrist inward. This is not a natural position and pinches the nerves more for an extended amount of time.
This is why doctors suggest wearing a brace to bed. It helps TRUST me !

#54293 - 07/24/05 04:39 PM Re: Hands and Thumbs
Fred Offline

Registered: 04/30/01
Posts: 461
Loc: Straughn, IN 47387
I can personally vouch for the wearing of wrist braces to bed sugestion. My Dr. sugested it 10 years ago as an alternative to carpal tunnel surgery. I don't wear them every night but I do on consecutive nights when I have started waking up with numb fingers. When at rest, sometimes my hands will cramp drawing my thumb towards the palm. Very annoying while trying to eat supper!

#54294 - 07/25/05 03:22 AM Re: Hands and Thumbs
walrus Offline

Registered: 07/25/02
Posts: 671
Loc: Bangor Me. USA
Both of my hands hurt at times, used to be most of the time. I saw chiropractors, PT and regular orthopedic doc. All helped but not as much as this (note they have a locator list where you enter your zip)
I would reccomend see a chiro. who is certified in ART. It really helped me. If you read the decription of why it works it make sense to me. But I'm not a doc

#54295 - 07/25/05 07:55 AM Re: Hands and Thumbs
BuggabooBren Offline

Registered: 11/15/01
Posts: 336
Loc: NM
This ART looks great, Walrus. I'm only a little dismayed that the nearest provider is more than 200 miles from us! The first banner I saw mentioned a satisfied & pain-free patient's conquest over plantar facietis which is my other constant pain and I would LOVE to resolve that! I may have to see if my HMO would cover the cost of treatment and how many treatments might be necessary to make a substantial difference. I also have a friend who is a physical therapist and would perhaps be interested in helping her train in this technique. Very cool & interesting info!

#54296 - 07/25/05 06:10 PM Re: Hands and Thumbs
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
Not to say anyone's wrong, but....those could also be a symptom of "heavy metal poisoning." I once worked with a guy who got lead poisoning from chewing on insulation (the colors in the insulation are often lead compounds).

A few quick, cheap tests ought to confirm or rule this out.

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