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Bob Bledsoe
02-03-2012, 06:05 AM
Is this a common problem? The last couple weeks I've been having issues on my fretting hand that seem like carpal tunnel. I've never experienced that before but from what I've read, thumb and first three fingers falling asleep has to do with that carpal tunnel nerve. I've been working on a few difficult pieces with a bunch of new fingering, so I'm spending time pressing too hard (until I realize and lighten up for a minute or two).

Got myself a wrist brace which seems to help. Took a couple days off and it got better, but then I started learning The Unknown and it's back ;-)

Wondering if this could just be a one time injury - in hope that I don't have carpal tunnel. Has this happened to anyone else? What do you do for it?

Ukuleleblues
02-03-2012, 10:23 AM
I'll have the pinky and nearest two go numb on my fretting hand, but that is due to a nerve being aggravated in my spine around my neck in my neck. I see a chiropractor for that. You can look up carpal tunnel on the net and do some of the stretch exercises they talk about. Also a squeeze ball might help strengthen the hand.

Drew Bear
02-03-2012, 11:14 AM
Bob, I don't have any answers to your questions, but I would suggest you reduce your uke playing time considerably. Those symptoms do not sound common. I wouldn't want to risk permanent injury. Best to visit your doctor.

Camsuke
02-03-2012, 03:37 PM
Good advice from Drew Bear, visit the doctor. If it is Carpal Tunnel no need to worry, the operation isn't too bad as long as you only have one wrist done at a time. I had the operation many years ago with excellent results.

Bob Bledsoe
02-03-2012, 05:12 PM
Thanks for the input guys. I'm taking it easy for now. If it persists I'll see a doctor. Right now I'm treating it like most people treat a carpal tunnel flair up and that seems to be working... It's forcing me to play less uke and get more work done. ;-)

TCK
02-03-2012, 06:35 PM
I would say the key words mentioned above would be DOCTOR. The Ukulele is extremely...and notably, easy on the wrist and hands- I would say that if you are experiencing symptoms, there is probably some other part of your life that is causing the bulk of the problem- hope it sorts itself out

MGM
02-03-2012, 07:20 PM
I had severe carpel tunnel last year and just stopped playing for three months as I could not feel what my fingers were touching. After rest it suddenly came back...I would avoid operation if you can...heard some bad stories about them...

Bill Mc
02-03-2012, 07:30 PM
Go see your doctor. Take his/her advice.

Bob Bledsoe
02-03-2012, 08:00 PM
Of course, a doctor is the way to get it figured out. I just wanted to see if this was something common in playing ukulele. Sounds like its not. I think I must just have some unfortunate genetics... Thanks again for your input guys!

roxhum
02-04-2012, 03:39 AM
Of course go to a doctor. I too have carpel tunnel, it isn't real bad and I choose not to have the surgery. So the advice given to me is don't screw around with nerves. If you know that playing the uke for 20 minutes makes your fingers tingle then stop playing in 15 minutes BEFORE it starts to bother you. Also looking at what you are doing and potentially doing something differently. I have little problem with ukes but had a lot of problem playing the accordion. I got a considerably smaller accordion and can only play for 15 to 20 minute sessions.

Lalz
02-04-2012, 09:42 AM
Hopefully it's just a stuck nerve and it will go away soon (one of my legs once fell asleep for a couple of days and then suddenly snapped back in place and recovered completely), but it's best not to touch your uke at all until you've seen a doctor. Depending on what you have it might make things worse.
Good luck and do keep us posted!

bonesigh
02-05-2012, 05:21 AM
I've had this same problem for some time now. I did talk to my doctor and they were frustratingly unconcerned. I just deal with it. Can imagine not playing the uke for 3 months yet alone a week. I really wonder how prevalent this problem is we are just a small part of the uke community.

Uke Whisperer
02-05-2012, 06:38 AM
May sound crazy and may not have anything to do with your carpal problem. However it seemed to solve mine after a week or two.
I'm not kidding here, even though it may sound that way.
Do you wear a watch (while playing) on the wrist of the hand/fingers having the issue? You may want to try taking it off when playing. It worked for me.
I wore a fairly wide stainless "bracelet" style band. I was wearing it a little tight to keep it from turning on my wrist. Apparently when fingering chords it would slide just enough to tighten-up and cause the problem. I've since loosened it and no longer have the problem.

Just another :2cents:

garyg
02-05-2012, 06:43 AM
Any Dr. who's unconcerned when a patient has repeated numbness in fingers is sending you a clear message "GET ANOTHER DOCTOR" . Like Rox, I have mild carpel tunnel from 30 years of computer keyboard use but I don't really notice any CT difference from playing. OTOH, I'm a beginner so I just chord and strum but sometimes I play for hours at a time. Please see another Dr. who knows what CT is and how it's treated.


I've had this same problem for some time now. I did talk to my doctor and they were frustratingly unconcerned. I just deal with it. Can imagine not playing the uke for 3 months yet alone a week. I really wonder how prevalent this problem is we are just a small part of the uke community.

coolkayaker1
02-05-2012, 06:59 AM
Original poster: I agree with what many have posted. You almost certainly, but not perfectly certainly, have CTS.

The splint and cutting back on uke time is a start--wear the splint every single night for a month...wherever you stand on the resolution at that time is about how good it'll get. You might, unless there is a contraindication to doing so (e.g. you're on warfarin, you're already on an NSAIDs, have kidney disease, you have bleeding ulcers in the past, and on and on--a live doctor needs to judge this for you) might try Aleve or generic at 2 tablets (that's double the dose on the bottle, that's why you must be sure there's no contraindication) twice a day for two weeks scheduled, not as needed. You can judge it then; if still noticeable, see your doctor. Agree with poster below, if your doctor is unconcerned, you need another doctor. They'll order an EMG test, which is not painful (I do them for my patients, and on myself as I teach med students). It'll determine if you, in fact, have CTS or some other condition (such as the pinch nerve in the neck, as someone suggested). It'll also determine the degree of CTS that you have.

Untreated CTS, even if it goes away, will almost always come back, and eventually you'll have the 20 minute surgery to get rid of it. There's an 8% chance of recurrence, which is low. Predisposing factors for CTS are not only repetition (like uking), but are related strongly to heredity (mom, dad, bro, sister with it) and also if you have associated conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease. Sometimes the CTS reveals itself before the underlying disease, and hence a caring primary doctor is key if it persists past a month or returns to assure that you don't have a predisposing, treatable and important disease. This is why treating CTS with a chiropractor is not advised, as it's unproven in any clinical study, provides only temporary relief, and as chiropractors are not licensed to order lab tests, EMG tests, and prescribe medications, they cannot determine for you if you have the important underlying conditions.

Complications from CTS surgery from an orthopedic surgeon with experience (i.e. in practice for five years or more) are exceedingly low, and the horror stories about CTS surgery are by and large related to people who let the condition go untreated, damaging the nerve, and then having the surgery to prevent progression after the nerve is permanently damaged and then complaining about the surgery. CTR (R=Release) is not surgery "on the nerve", but rather around it to free the nerve. It's one of the safest surgeries available for any condition, and is hugely effective (when the person first has an EMG to know the condition exists; some unscrupulous surgeons do the surgery without the EMG, and when the patient continues to have symptoms only later to find out they didn't have CTS at all;, this is another, less common, reason for a disgruntled patient to report a poor surgical outcome). The recovery is quick, with office workers typically back to work in 1 week, and hand laborers back in 2-3 weeks. Laser surgery, touted by some, is unproven to open and release enough for long term efficacy, and the data is not in for recurrence rates on so called laser surgery. Traditional open, 1/2 inch incision surgery is so easy, that laser holds little advantage, and the potential disadvantage to having to have the traditional surgery in a few years. Further info on that would be through your particular surgeon if it gets to that point clinically.

Mahalo and good luck to you, Bob from CK1.

Bob Bledsoe
02-05-2012, 12:54 PM
CK1, thank you so much for your insight! I really appreciate (as I'm sure others do as well ) you taking the time to explain all that.
Once the symptoms came back, I started wearing the splint again. I've been taking ibuprofen but not on a regular basis. I'll get on the regimen you suggested. At this point, there's no pain. Just fingers going to sleep and a bit of stiffness. I didn't realize CTS is hereditary - both my parents have it. So it sounds like I'm in the beginning stages. I'll take it easy and monitor it. Also, I'm a fat guy so the chance that extra pounds might be contributing to it gives me the extra push to drop some weight...
So the plan is that I'll take the ibuprofen for two weeks (let me know if I should chuck the bottle of Ibuprofen and switch to Aleve), I'll give it a month with the brace and get to losing some extra weight. If it's still a problem after that first month, I'll get it looked at.
Thanks again for your thoughts CK1!
And thanks to everyone else who has weighed in here. This has turned out to be a really informative thread for anyone dealing with CTS.

bonesigh
02-05-2012, 03:13 PM
I had just changed doctors. Guess I'll have to try another. Kaiser Permanente, sigh. Wish I could have my sleep doctor as my primary because she's great. Info on this thread was great. Thanks.

coolkayaker1
02-05-2012, 04:41 PM
Bob: Yes, exactly as you state over a month trial and you will know. Numbness, even without pain, is not normal for uking, as others have stated.

Ibuprofen is a reasonable substitute for Aleve (aka Naprosyn), but you'lll need to take 600 mg (three tabs) three times a day with food for two weeks (not a month). Stop if any ringing in the ears, GI upset, etc. Note that the maximum daily Ibuprofen dose is 800mg (four tabs), so you are not at, nor should need, the max. And again, only if no contraindication to taking it (only your primary doctor can truly judge this). Some choose generic Aleve over ibuprofen because it's only two tabs twice daily (440mg total), and having food--serious food--in the stomach twice a day to take it is often easier for people than having it in there three times daily.

I wish you luck on it. If your parents both have it, it's a likely eventuality that you'll need something done about it, sorry to say, whether uking or not. Don't give up your hobby for something that can be fixed, or will eventually be fixed, anyway. Live life (after this first month anyhow) and see how she plays.

Bonesigh, I agree with you about changing doctors, or using same doctor and just saying, "My hands are numb and I can't live with it anymore. I've done a splint (available at CVS, Wal-mArt, etc) and anti-inflammatories for a month, and I still have it and need help. What's the next step?" That'll show them you're knowledgeable and serious. Then you'll have the test and know what's what.

G'luck, all. Happy to help with advice for fellow ukulele players./


CK1, thank you so much for your insight! I really appreciate (as I'm sure others do as well ) you taking the time to explain all that.
Once the symptoms came back, I started wearing the splint again. I've been taking ibuprofen but not on a regular basis. I'll get on the regimen you suggested. At this point, there's no pain. Just fingers going to sleep and a bit of stiffness. I didn't realize CTS is hereditary - both my parents have it. So it sounds like I'm in the beginning stages. I'll take it easy and monitor it. Also, I'm a fat guy so the chance that extra pounds might be contributing to it gives me the extra push to drop some weight...
So the plan is that I'll take the ibuprofen for two weeks (let me know if I should chuck the bottle of Ibuprofen and switch to Aleve), I'll give it a month with the brace and get to losing some extra weight. If it's still a problem after that first month, I'll get it looked at.
Thanks again for your thoughts CK1!
And thanks to everyone else who has weighed in here. This has turned out to be a really informative thread for anyone dealing with CTS.

Bob Bledsoe
02-05-2012, 06:47 PM
Thanks CK1! Very glad you jumped in on this thread. Also, I have this rash... jk.


Bob: Yes, exactly as you state over a month trial and you will know. Numbness, even without pain, is not normal for uking, as others have stated.

Ibuprofen is a reasonable substitute for Aleve (aka Naprosyn), but you'lll need to take 600 mg (three tabs) three times a day with food for two weeks (not a month). Stop if any ringing in the ears, GI upset, etc. Note that the maximum daily Ibuprofen dose is 800mg (four tabs), so you are not at, nor should need, the max. And again, only if no contraindication to taking it (only your primary doctor can truly judge this). Some choose generic Aleve over ibuprofen because it's only two tabs twice daily (440mg total), and having food--serious food--in the stomach twice a day to take it is often easier for people than having it in there three times daily.

I wish you luck on it. If your parents both have it, it's a likely eventuality that you'll need something done about it, sorry to say, whether uking or not. Don't give up your hobby for something that can be fixed, or will eventually be fixed, anyway. Live life (after this first month anyhow) and see how she plays.

Bonesigh, I agree with you about changing doctors, or using same doctor and just saying, "My hands are numb and I can't live with it anymore. I've done a splint (available at CVS, Wal-mArt, etc) and anti-inflammatories for a month, and I still have it and need help. What's the next step?" That'll show them you're knowledgeable and serious. Then you'll have the test and know what's what.

G'luck, all. Happy to help with advice for fellow ukulele players./

coolkayaker1
02-06-2012, 05:32 AM
Rash. It must be ukulele fever! Solution: play ukes until hands numb. Wait, you already did that....LOL Hang in there, Bob.