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Then & Now: Carpal Tunnel

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

August 20th, 2019:

Today I learned the pain of letting go

The pain of letting go and putting yourself first.

Today, I was diagnosed with moderate carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. As a young 21 year old woman, it pains me to know I have to deal with something that was caused by my decisions. Hours of dragon boating, carpentry work, and general life is now going to be changed because of this.

I decided to take a step back from Dragon Boat and I will no longer be paddling.

I quit three jobs in the past two hours and will no longer be a carpenter or electrician for the theaters at my university.

I am putting my health first.

I am focusing on me. Settling my mind and trying to heal as I work with my carpal tunnel and the factors that contributed to this syndrome.

January 2nd, 2019:

That previous entry was written while I was crying in the parking lot of a Target... very dramatic, Neaco... I know.

It has been over four months since I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Honestly, I thought it was the end of the world when I first heard the news and I was crushed. I was told I would probably have to quit certain activities because they pinched the nerves in my wrist and would elongate my carpal tunnel symptoms. I thought I would no longer be able to do the things I loved, such as theatre crafting, yoga, and dragon boating. However, since then, I have found ways to work around the factors that cause my symptoms.

When diagnosed, my doctor told me it would be a six month period of wearing a carpal tunnel brace. During the first two months, I wore one during the day and when I went to sleep. I feared every movement when I wasn't supported by the confines of the grey brace tightened around my wrist. Eventually, I started becoming less dependent on the brace restricting my movements and began to only wear it when I was going to bed.

In October, I was commissioned to design and fabricate a metal brazier with another colleague. This was the first carpentry project I was going to work on after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel and I was extremely nervous. Discussing the situation with the scenic charge staff at my university, I learned that her friend also has carpal tunnel but doesn't allow it to stop her from doing what she loves. Her friend wore a brace during their paint calls and made sure to take time and listen to her body throughout the process. I was determined to respect my body and the healing process as I worked on the metal brazier.

While creating the metal brazier, I tried to cut metal on the cold saw with my lefthand rather than my right hand (I have carpal tunnel in my right wrist). After each task, I tried to stretch out my wrist and allow it some time to regain feeling in the fingertips if I lost my sense of touch. I noticed that power tools vibrating in my hand and through my body didn't help the situation but I could use them in moderation. It was the first carpentry project I completed since being diagnosed and I realized I could still work in the scenic shop with minor symptoms as long as I was mindful of how my body interacted with the tools. Eventually, I went on to A1 (live mix) a show in November without a carpal tunnel brace by practicing hand placements on the Yamaha QL5 sound console during tech and stretching my wrist between theatre equity breaks.

I have learned to tackle my situations by adapting my previously acquired techniques to fit the circumstances of someone who needs to limit certain wrist movements because of carpal tunnel, and if it gets too tough then I know I have my handy-dandy grey brace to keep me in check.

Throughout my experience of sharing with others that I have carpal tunnel what has surprised me the most is the number of people my age who have similar symptoms or have heard of the syndrome. I never knew what carpal tunnel was, how one gets it, and the symptoms until I went to my doctor, but there were plenty of young adults in their early twenties who knew all about it. I noticed people who used a lot of wrist motion were the ones who knew the most, such as my friends who played tennis, those on their high school's drum-line, and video gamers and programmers. I found some odd solace in the fact that others knew what I was going through and could sympathize with.

With time, fear has no longer consumed my daily activities and I have begun to resume some of the things I cut out four months ago. Since August, I have been able to jump back into dragon boat and I have even begun training for Team USA. I no longer actively avoid the scenic shop and its large array of power tools. Slowly, I have brought back yoga into my daily practice as I focus on listening to my body and knowing when to stop.

August Neaco thought it was a game of all or nothing and that's why she cut everything out.

January Neaco has learned that it's a balance of moderation and finding what works for you in various circumstances.


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