I developed some very scary problems with my hands a couple of months after beginning to do a lot of lawnmowing in the spring of 2000. I have been working on this for awhile and have learned alot. My ideas and recommendations are summarized on this page.
More details on my individual story are on a separate page here.
Human hands are very complicated. In fact the entire human body is infinitely complex. Check out an altas of human anatomy sometime. Most humans have a lot of tension stored in their musculo-skeletal systems. This causes misallignment which affects range of motion. All sorts of problems are caused and aggravated by the patterns of deep chronic tension that accumulate in our bodies. I have been surprised to find how common it is for people to have problems with their hands.
If you are having problems with your hands, I would suggest that the most likely things that can help are stretching exercises and massage. You may also need to work with strengthening and look at overall patterns of whole-body tension. It can be important to learn about how you are using your body and there may be some ergonomic considerations such as tools, chairs, keyboards.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the muscles that control the fingers are in the forearms. Also, problems in the hands and wrists can be related to tension in arms, shoulders, neck, chest and back. Every part of the body is connected to every other part. Many people who start having pain or soreness in fingers/hands/wrists later have problems with arms and elbows and probably also have sore spots in their shoulders/neck/back.
For info on stretching, the first book to get is Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Stress Injuries by Sharon Butler. This book explains soft-tissue injury very well and presents a collection of stretches which are to be performed in a very gentle and focused way. There are many other sources for specific stretches and many other approaches to stretching. You may want to look into yoga or Tai Chi. The best way to check out such disciplines is to go to some classes. There are also many excellent books and videos available. I highly recommend Sam Dworkis's books, ExTension and Recovery Yoga. His website is loaded with great info: extensionyoga.com
For massage, there are many types of therapists you can see. Deep tissue massage such as Rolfing may be good, or sometimes a softer approach is just as helpful. You may want to try several therapists, they will all be different. You can also accomplish a lot with self-massage. For this I recommend using tools. There are inexpensive tools that can be used to dig in deep. The Dolphin-Massager is a good one. There is one tool that is designed specifically for massaging the arms. This is the ArmAid. It currently costs about $100. It is worth it. It is my opinion that the single most important thing you can do for your hands or arms is to get and use the ArmAid. See: www.armaid.com. (But if you don't have one, use the Dolphin or some other tool to expore the deep tension in the arms). Another very useful tool for self-massage is the Thera-Cane (www.theracane.com). The Thera-Cane can be used to get at the back, including in between the shoulder blades.
Strengthening may be important but this may be harmful or ineffective at more advanced stages of some conditions, like when pain is present. It is usually going to be better to work more with stretching and massage at first. When working with weights, you may need to start with very light weights, like 2lb dumbbells. At some point, it may be appropriate to explore whole-body strength-training, perhaps at a gym with a trainer. Here are a couple of websites I like for info on weight-training: www.cyberpump.com , www.hardgainer.com , however I usually like to work with lighter weights than most would recommend. Still not sure what to think about the Flextend gloves, but may be something to look into.
For dealing with overall body structure, I recommend the book Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. This book has stretching and strengthening exercises designed to reallign the whole body. There is a chapter specifically addressing hand and arm problems. This is a very important book.
For general info on upper body RSI, I recommend the book It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! by Suparna Damany and Jack Bellis. This covers various aspects of hand/arm RSI problems and includes lots of self-help info.
One of the most useful and interesting sources for information about CTS and other RSI is the Sorehand mailing list. More information on the Sorehand list is here
One of most interesting books I have found on the subject of human hands in general is The Hand by Frank Wilson. The full title is The Hand - How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture. The author is a neurologist. This is not a book about how to fix hand problems, but this is a great book for anyone interested in any aspect of the human hand.
One thing that can lead to tension is "wrong" use of the body. If you look at a bunch of different cats, you will see that they all move the same way. This makes sense since they share the same body design. But if you look at a bunch of humans (who also share the same body design), they all move differently. Most of us are not using our bodies as they were meant to be used. For more on this I suggest looking into Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique. (also Egoscue).
One thing that a lot of people overlook when dealing with problems caused by tension is caffeine ingestion. I just recently found the book I have been hoping to find on that subject - Caffeine Blues, highly recommended.
People need to drink sufficient water. This comes up a lot in discussions of hand problems. Joints need lubrication, and when the body is dehydrated, joint fluid is not as high on the body's list of priorities as the brain, blood, etc. There is a good book about this called Your Body's Many Cries for Water. Keep in mind that if you drink coffee, tea, coke, or any caffeine or alcohol, these are dehydrating and you need extra water to compensate.
If you think you need to go see a doctor, just make sure you educate yourself first as much as you can. And please, check into some alternatives (such as the suggestions above) before agreeing to have surgery - it is not reversable and the parts of your body that may be altered or removed were put there for a reason.
There are many other books that may be helpful. A few more are listed on my Body Books page. There is a giant list of RSI-related books on Paul Marxhausen's RSI page: rsi.unl.edu
Physical problems caused by tension can be very difficult to correct. Its just the nature of things. Tension can be caused by physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual factors, so we need to look at things holistically. It may take a long time to figure out just what you need to do and it may take a lot of work. You will need to bring a lot of awareness to any self-healing activities - don't just "go through the motions" and say "Well, I tried that". You have to really get into it. Surround yourself with helpful books and just keep after it. Good luck!
Here are some other pages on my website that you may find useful:
Ideas on Self-Healing
Tools for Self-Massage
Chinese Health Balls
Ideas on Self-Healing Tools for Self-Massage
Yoga Books Body Books Qigong Books
Health Links Chinese Health Balls Flextend Gloves
Self Care For RSI - Sharon Butler
Everything you need to solve RSI problems is here!
RSIProgram.com - Jack Bellis
RSI Page - Paul Marxhausen
Musicians and Injuries - Paul Marxhausen
Typing Injury FAQ
Extension Yoga - Sam Dworkis
Yahoo Discussion Group for Musicians with RSI
HandHealth.com Source for many therapeutic products
Columbus Center for Movement Studies - Paul Linden
Meir Schneider's School of Self-Healing
RSI Help - Deborah Quilter
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - Dr. Selmonosky
Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine
Indiana Hand Center
Article on Grip Strength
Dr. Theo Extensive info on Arthritis and Glucosamine
Flextend (see my Flextend page)
About One Hand Typing
2 Guys talking About CTS
CTS Discussion on SlashDot
Interview with Dr Robert Markison (hand surgeon)
Save Your Hands - Lauriann Greene
Some Yoga Videos for CTS/RSI (Gail Dubinsky)
My Daily Yoga (Ellen Serber)
Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Workplace (500 page book online)
No Pain Computing
Cornell University Ergonomics Web
Giant Online Book - Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Workplace
BetterHands.com Grip Rest gloves
Hand Health Resources
NOTE - I do not recommend this approach, but since some claim success, I will include links for info.
Mind/Body page for Harvard RSI Action
Rachel's Homage to Dr Sarno (More links here)
Back to Slade's Health Page Slade's Home Page
Revised 12/01/05, 12/09/16 (cleaned up some links)
This page accessed times since 04/21/00.