Wrist Pain

Susan O. – Wrist Pain

When Susan came to see me she was 39 years old. She was a first time mother with an active toddler. She had been diagnosed with arthritis, related to carpal tunnel syndrome, in both wrists. Susan was desperate. She had been told that she needed to have surgery on both of her wrists. Most of the people I see have been advised the same thing: that they will need to have surgery when the pain becomes too much to handle. In addition to the pain, her biggest problem at the time included the fact that she was unable to pick up her young daughter. Paradoxically, the pain was partially due to the way she was picking up her daughter, which she did many times a day. She had been in pain for a long time, and felt no improvement despite taking medication for her arthritis. For Susan, like for most people, surgery was a last resort.

She was not only feeling desperate about the pain, she was feeling overwhelmed with worry about how she could continue to care for her young daughter. Being a first time mom is hard enough, without being in that kind of constant pain. The suggested surgery would have necessitated a very long recovery time, without a guaranteed successful result or reduction in pain. During the recovery time she would have had no way of caring for her daughter. Intuitively, she knew there had to be another answer.

A friend referred her to me.  After three visits she began to feel great relief from the pain. I used a combination of muscle release and deep massage, and showed Susan stretches and yoga poses that she could do on her own. But what really happened in those three sessions?

I didn’t ask Susan where the pain was or if there had been an injury. No one had ever suggested to Susan that the problem also involved her neck, more specifically the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is actually a large bundle of nerves, which receives and supplies information to the neck, shoulder, and arm. Clearly there was more going on here than just pain in the wrists. This was crucial to the treatment – the pain was in her wrist but the issue was originating much further up, and was not due to any structural or neurological problem. Many people who feel pain assume that it comes from whatever they have been diagnosed with. Many people feel no pain, until they are diagnosed with “arthritis” or a disc problem, which unfortunately are catch-all diagnoses. The statistics reveal that a lot of people show a “problem” with a disc on an MRI, but have no pain, while others find that their pain does not decrease despite having had surgery on a disc. There is no real logical connection between the pain and the diagnosis. The health professionals Susan had seen up until now had evaluated one part of her body without considering the whole system.

All Susan needed to do was learn the skill of ease in regard to using her arms, wrists, and shoulders.  Picking up her daughter, which had previously had been a stressful experience for the wrists, became a motion of ease and grace.  She learned to use her whole arm and broaden her shoulder, rather than just relying on her wrist. This gave her the ability to do work more efficiently, with less force, or effort. She had already learned to stretch, but now she learned to use her arms and hold her neck in a way that maximized ease and minimized stress.

Susan describes herself as someone who re-injures herself frequently because of her lifestyle, and of course, caring for her daughter. She continues to do the stretches and to see me on an as-needed basis. Recently, I showed her a stretch, which opens the shoulders: she had been holding her shoulders in a contracted position. This is not “realignment”, as it is usually called.  The new position opened up the entire shoulder girdle – it’s a way of holding yourself, it is not just a stretch. In a stretch, once you stop stretching, the body goes back to its original contracted position. By learning to hold herself differently, Susan was applying postural intelligence, i.e., she was feeling the difference in her body as a new point of reference.

The ultimate result of the sessions was that Susan began to feel more confident, more in control of her body, and more aware of what she needed to do to feel good. She realized after I was able to take her out of pain initially, that nothing was really broken, there was no underlying arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome that was causing her pain. What she gained was an awareness of what she was doing to her arm, neck and shoulders, and the tools to do it differently. Now she is better able to identify what is happening in her body and work with me, or on her own, to stay pain free. She learned concepts that apply to the entire body, not just the original problem she came with. Rather than me telling her to do this or not do that, she was able to experience the difference herself and then recreate it on her own.