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What is this hand pain?

By June 1, 2009 - 1:34pm
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I have had weird hand issues since I was about 30 years old. I am 38 now.
My symptoms are stiffness on waking, tingling, some numbness and achiness.
They are fine when I keep them moving but are worse after sleep or long periods of inactivity. I have been tested for rheumatoid arthrits, nerve problems, carpal tunnel, etc.. All the tests were negative. I am an artist and use my hands a lot. I am also on the computer a lot. The pain and stiffness can be worse after a day of drawing. My chiropractor thinks that the problem may still be carpal tunnel or tennis elbow or a combination. I also sometimes have soreness and stiffness in my elbows.

I was a bartender in my early thirties and things seemed to have been worse after this. I was, in my twenties and am still an animator and artist. These issues worry me a lot. My hands are my livelihood even more so for me. One doctor thought that I may have some sort of arthritis but other doctors have not been convinced of this. Even as I write, my fingers feel stiff when I stop to stretch them. My right hand is a little worse, my first finger being the most sore and stiff. My little fingers also get very stiff but the thumbs less so. I do lots of arm and hand exercises and am almost double jointed in the arms and hands. Because of this, My chiropractor feels that the issue could not be arthritis.
Any thoughts? I would love some help or advice. I am into natural remedies if anyone can recommend anything. Thanks.
My younger sister has slightly different but similiar symptoms like tingling, coldness and numbness and my brother has odd circulation issues in one hand and some stiffness too. He thought it may be Reynard's disease. No one seems to have an answer...I am sick of asking doctors and there being no clear answer.

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Hi Diane,
Thanks for your help. I bought some zyflamend(I read about some woman's use of it here on empowher for stiffness in the legs)and will keep you updated on how it's working.
As far as the food issues go...I have copy pasted for ease and clarity.

- sugar..I am very anti sugar and only consume it accidentally. I am an avid label reader.
- saturated fat...again, being a health food addict, I avoid these.
- junk food....I basically NEVER eat it!
- high-fat meats....I haven't eaten meat in over 20 years!
- processed meats.....ditto!
- high-fat diet products.....I prepare my own food most of the time and use healthy, natural ingredients.
- cut back on potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant.....I have always disliked potatoes but eat a large amount of tomatoes....I will try and cut down and see what happens.

For the foods that help inflammation:

- Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as fish oil, flax seed oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds..... I eat a lot of these daily!
- a balanced daily multi-vitamin.....I actually prefer to get my vitmains the natural way, through fruits, veggies, etc...though now I have my zyflamend.
- olive oil....I get through an inordinate amount of olive oil....lol
- lean poultry, fish and wild seafood...I live on fish and seafood.
- nuts, legumes and seeds...ditto
- soy products...again, because I don't eat meat, I eat a lot of soy products.
- whole grains....brown rice, kamut, etc...I eat it all...
- fruits and vegetables (especially berries)....I eat a lot of strawberries, apples, blackberries, manges, pears and eat leafy greens every day.
- water, and green tea....again, very good...I start the day with water and lemon, consume a lot of spring water with my special added ph balancer, don't drink coffee and drink lots of green tea, detox teas and camomile,etc..

I find all of this very interesting as I truly believe that you are what you eat.....that's why it's surprising to me that I have this hand issue atall because my diet almost mirrors the recommended plan.....are we destined to inherit illnesses and pain?

I will work on using my left hand for more...like walking the dogs and carrying my hand bag, etc...
Thanks again, Diane!

June 4, 2009 - 11:28am

This was a really interesting question for me to answer (the natural anti-inflammatory part) because I have had RSI before and when I did, the doctor prescribed rest (which wasn't easy because I work on a computer all day long), larger-than-OTC doses of ibuprofen, and a muscle relaxant at night. This went on for about six weeks.

It's important to see if you can cut back on activity if one hand/wrist/arm is worse than the other. This is funny, but simply things like using your dominant hand less will help. I am right-handed, but I trained myself to be left-moused on the computer and to do things like brush my teeth, load the dishwasher and pick up my purse with my left hand (and carry it on my left shoulder instead of my more instinctual right one). I also studied my computer habits and tried to cut back on anything that was more recreational than work-oriented. All these things combined helped me a lot, and now I only get occasional slight numbness, pain or tingling.

But the natural anti-inflammatory part intrigues me. Turns out that a lot of foods have anti-inflammatory characteristics and some actually have pro-inflammatory characteristics (ack! just what we don't need!).

Here's a few things we should be eating less of in terms of inflammation:

- sugar
- saturated fat
- junk food
- high-fat meats
- processed meats
- high-fat diet products
- cut back on potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant

and here are a few things that help inflammation:

- Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as fish oil, flax seed oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds
- a balanced daily multi-vitamin
- olive oil
- lean poultry, fish and wild seafood
- nuts, legumes and seeds
- soy products
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables (especially berries)
- water, and green tea

Here's a great article on all this. I'm printing it out for myself as well =)


And here is another great article about this:


Thanks for asking this question, you may have just changed MY life as well!

June 3, 2009 - 9:46am

Thanks! I read the article and this really sounds like what my brother has! his hand changes color after a run in the cold. It doesn't really sound like my problem though. My issue is more like a repetitive stress problem. Maybe the bartending caused it at first and the drawing doesn't help. Also, I live in a warm climate. He doesn't.
I have had therapy before but had to cut it short at the time but maybe I can try going again.
Neither my brother or I smoke. He never has and I quit before the symptoms started.
My main worry is that it will get worse. Is there anything I can take to prevent this? A natural remedy perhaps? What is natural and inflammatory?
Thanks for your help, Diane!

June 2, 2009 - 11:16am


Wow. So sorry you've been dealing with this for so many years. The pain you describe is at best annoying and at worst interferes with your ability to express yourself and make a living.

There are repetitive strain injuries (RSI) that are not truly classified as carpal tunnel. Did your doctor(s) ever prescribe anti-inflammatories, natural supplements and/or physical therapy for your problem to see if it would help?

Have either your sister or your brother seen a doctor over their symptoms? Among the three of you, do you believe you're dealing with the same thing, perhaps something of genetic nature?

Here is the Mayo Clinic's pages on Reynaud's disease, if you believe that it may be involved:


Your brother may be onto something, some of the symptoms you describe sound quite similar (and more women get Reynaud's than men). Are any of you smokers? If so, smoking constricts blood vessels and is a possible cause of Reynaud's.

Here are quite a few possible causes of Reynaud's, many of which stress repetitive motion:


Is any of this any help for you? Does any of it ring true?

June 2, 2009 - 9:13am
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