What is carpal tunnel syndrome? (And what is it not?)
Q: I spend all day at the computer, and my left arm and hand hurt really badly when I type. Is that carpal tunnel syndrome? — Christy R., Birmingham, Ala.
A: For people who've been sidelined by bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome, like the Reds' guitar-strumming pitcher Bronson Arroyo, there's good news: Breakthroughs in managing this painful problem have revolutionized the outcome for the 12 million-plus people in North America with the condition.
What is CTS? It's pressure on the nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel — a narrow passageway made up of ligament and bone that connects the forearm to the hand. Symptoms include numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and fingers.
Who gets CTS? Some folks are born with a cramped tunnel, and if they get any swelling in the area, it can affect the nerve. CTS also is related to overactivity of the pituitary gland, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause, obesity and a cyst or tumor in the canal.
What to do? To ease the discomfort, immobilize your wrist with a splint when you can, including during sleep. Also, take anti-inflammatories, like aspirin, and ice your wrist morning and night. If the problem persists, you can get noninvasive endoscopic surgery to open up the tunnel and relieve symptoms. Most people recover completely and never have the problem again.
What CTS is not: We YOU Docs have even better news: You probably don't have CTS. The aches and pains people get from using the computer keyboard are usually from repetitive-use injury, not CTS. So relax — and try these five simple steps:
• Take a couple of days away from the keyboard so healing can begin.
• Go to physical therapy; stretching exercises can help.
• Use heat and ice alternatingly on the area: 10 minutes of each, several times a day.
• Examine your desk set-up: You need good posture, and your keyboard, screen and chair need to be positioned so that you're strain-free. Also try a trackball mouse to ease stress on your fingers. You should start seeing positive results pretty quickly.
Q: My daughter is on a waiting list for a kidney; no one in the family is a compatible donor, so this may be a very long wait. How can we get involved with something like the 60-person kidney donation chain I just heard about? — Francine R., Seattle
A: Chain 124, as it was called, was put together by the National Kidney Registry. It involved 30 live donors and 30 people in need of a kidney. Willing but incompatible donors — like your relatives — were hooked up with strangers who had compatible kidneys.
This daisy chain of hope was criss-crossing the country when the first person in the exchange found a compatible donor. Talk about a generous heart — the donor was someone who didn't have a relative on the waiting list but who wanted to help.
We YOU Docs suggest that you get your daughter on their waiting list as well as national lists such as the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). You can also get in touch with Dr. Mike's and Dr. Oz's hospitals, which specialize in organ transplant: The Cleveland Clinic and New York-Presbyterian.
What's unique about kidney donation is that it can come from a live donor. Other organ donations come from a person deeding their body part or parts to the National Network of Organ Donors after death.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most religions in the United States support donation as a compassionate expression of generosity and love. If you're not sure, check with your denomination's leadership.
Here's how you can become a life-giving hero. Sign the donor box on the back of your driver's license when you get it or renew it, or go to organdonor.gov and sign your state's organ and tissue registry. It's really something to know that after you die, the beat can still go on!
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of "YOU: Losing Weight." To submit questions, go to RealAge.com.