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Wrist Pain

Posted April. 03, 2006 03:00,   


Kang Young-moh, 35, lives in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, and has suffered from chronic pain in his right wrist for the past three years. He works for a large corporate computer development team and develops programs for his company’s internal network. Whenever a new project is assigned, he works until past 11:00 p.m. for months on new programs in front of a computer.

Just picking up a spoon hurts his wrist these days, however. The pain is concentrated in the wrist area close to his thumb; when he bends or stretches his wrist, the pain becomes sharper.

Kang visited Seoul Asan Medical Center to see orthopedist Kim Jin-sam on March 30. X-rays were taken, but they showed nothing wrong.

“My wrist close to the right thumb hurts even when I’m doing nothing, and when I bend it, it hurts more and I feel numbness too,” Kang said.

Kim grabbed Kang’s wrist and pressed the area that he said was in pain.

“Ouch, that the spot. I had grabbed the mouse for more than two hours everyday because I had to teach computer education to workers, and the pain also became more severe,” Kang said.

Kim observed how the pain works up by making Kang bend and unbend his wrist.

“One can see two tendons at the back of the hand when the thumb is stretched. The tendon has an inflammation and is swollen. The membrane surrounding the tendon is all swollen up, hence unable to move properly it causes pain.”

Stretch for 20 minutes a day—

All of a sudden, as if he remembered the name of the disorder Kang asks, “By any chance, isn’t this carpal tunnel syndrome?”

“No, in most cases people think of this syndrome when there is a problem with the wrist. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by median nerve being compressed by tendons in the wrist area, and its symptoms are burning numbness in fingers or palm. If pain is the main symptom, it is stenosing tenosynovitis, or tendon inflammation.”

Kim explained that stenosing tenosynovitis often occurs in areas with many tendons such as the wrist area connected to the thumb or back of the hand. Kang asked, “So I don’t need to undergo surgery?”

“If pain persists for more than a year, or if it recurs twice or thrice a year, one should consider surgery. But for now take painkillers for about two weeks and continuously stretch your wrists for 20 minutes, three times a day. If the pain still lingers after that, I plan to inject steroids, which will reduce the inflammation.”

Kim taught Kang how to stretch, by grabbing the hand and pulling downwards so the tendons around the thumb would be stretched.

“Wrist pain occurs if one maintains the same position for prolonged periods so, after working for about 30 minutes take a rest. In addition, when using the mouse, don’t only use it with one hand, but try using the mouse with the opposite hand too.”

On the same day, Kang immediately bought a wrist protection mouse pad and keyboard pad.

Jin-han Lee likeday@donga.com