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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Looking for Answers

Published August 3, 2010 11:20 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
In March of this past spring I was officially diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition started during the third trimester of my pregnancy. Most people said it would disappear after giving birth; however unfortunately for me, it did not.

The signs and symptoms subsided a bit during my maternity leave. I was home with my little infant and all and all, my hands and wrists were functioning well. After returning to work in January and then switching jobs to the preschool-based position, I began to see a significant increase in the pain and numbness that goes along with carpal tunnel syndrome. I even began having a raw, nerve wrenching pain at night that would begin in my right wrist and shoot through the middle of my hand to my fingers. When it would happen, I would immediately wake, remain practically paralyzed in that hand and spend the rest of the night trying to find a comfortable position that would hopefully help the throbbing to cease. By the beginning of March, the pain and numbness took turns and never stopped.

Although I know housework and childcare surely contribute to the persistence of my symptoms, I do believe that the paperwork demands are not really helping. The typing and writing are fairly relentless. In the meantime, I've come to learn that several of my coworkers who, although they are not SLPs, are all in special education also are afflicted with carpal tunnel. For these colleagues, it has become a chronic problem that is undoubtedly aggravated by their paperwork responsibilities.

On the website, the definition of an occupational hazard is "a danger or risk inherent in certain employments or workplaces" and then goes on to list dangerous professions such as deep-sea diving and high-voltage electrical wiring as a careers with considerable risks. (I guess speech therapy didn't make the cut! HaHa!) So, of course I know that although we may not have "occupational hazards" per se, I do wonder if certain aspects of the career can take its toll on therapists physically. Or, is it simply the triangle effect of paperwork, housework and baby work that lets me know my hands have seen more restful days.

I write this today for two reasons....One, to open up the conversation for others who may be suffering with both carpal tunnel and monthly billing, IEPs and therapy notes AND to see if anyone can offer suggestions for relief. So far I have tried cortisone shots, wrist splints and most recently acupuncture with little relief and definitely no cure.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed....


Find yourself a good chiropractor that will use massage and adjustments.  I suffered from this during all my pregnancies and post-pardum.  Doing the exercises and seeking chiropractic care helped enormously.

carla grundy, early intervention - slp/parent infant specialist, private November 30, 2010 10:11 PM
st. louis MO

Tanya - where did you get your magnetic bracelet from?

Thank you to everyone for all your great feedback!! It has been so helpful to read the comments.

stephanie bruno dowling, blog author August 18, 2010 10:33 PM

I could not function without regular chiropractic care. I have seen a variety of chiropractors for approximately 20 years. Only chiropractic adjustments relieve the stress in my back, hips, shoulders, and neck and relieve severe headaches. As needed, I get my wrists adjusted from work strain plus gardening. I feel instant relief. Now my health insurance pays a small portion of chiropractic treatment. Regular massage should be a part of my health and well being care, but I cannot afford these. I have had success with magnets to relieve pain, but only in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments.

Cindy, Elem, Middle, High - SLP, Public Schools August 15, 2010 12:17 AM

I bought a $9 magnetic bracelet.  I know it sounds strange, but I got immediate and lasting relief.  

Tanya, , EC SLP school setting August 13, 2010 9:28 AM
Suburban Chicago IL

I also developed carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy...23 years ago! I suffered through the pain, cortisone injections, and finally surgery on both hands.  At the time, sleeping with splints on each wrist/hand provided tremendous relief and allowed me to sleep through the night.  Due to a host of other problems, I am now seeing a chiropractor who assures me that his treatment could have prevented me from having surgery.  He's treating my thumb, for which I'm postitive my hand surgeon would be all too eager to sharpen his scalpel!  Good luck!

Jean, EI - SLP August 12, 2010 12:40 PM
LaGrange KY

Last week I shared the story of my current very painful struggle with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.

August 10, 2010 10:06 AM

Although I don't have carpal tunnel, I have muscle spasm's in my back at times.  It has caused me to stop providing EI services for several months a few years ago.  Working with little ones can be difficult since I'm over 50(by only one year though!)  I like the suggestion of massage therapy which I will look into now.   Which anti inflammatory foods were suggested?  Anyone else have suggestions for back pain?  

Elizabeth, BIrth-22 years - SLP August 8, 2010 4:24 PM
Chicago IL

Thank you for all the suggestions!! This has been really helpful. I love the ideas of Vitamin B and anti-inflamatory foods. I would love to do this as natural as possible.

I have been wearing my brace at night....sometimes it helps and I sleep through the night, but not every night....

I'm scheduled for another round of cortisone injections....any thoughts on those? I've heard mixed reviews...

Thank you again!

stephanie bruno dowling, blog author August 6, 2010 3:52 PM

Sleep with your arms extended, if possible. Crooking your arms impedes flow of blood therefore oxygen to the affected area.  Also, a PT exercise recomnends extending both arms and pumping hands downward periodically during the day.

I highly recommend regular acupuncture, as well.

How about dictating yr notes via dragon speaking?

Good luck!!

Ellen, speech-language pathology - SLP IV, Kalua & Kalaheo High Schools August 6, 2010 3:16 PM
Kailua HI

I have had a very similar problem in the recent past.  After many wallet sucking Dr. appointments I sought a wholistic chiropractor, modified my diet to anti-inflamatory foods only, and take heavy doses of all Vit B forms.  Now I only end up with throbbing pain or numbness occasionally.  

Amy, school for autism - SLP August 6, 2010 1:29 PM
dayton OH

Massage therapy is a must in our profession.

Sandy, Sppech Pathollogy - SLP, pre-k August 6, 2010 7:58 AM
Lafayette LA

I seem to have carpal tunnel pain when I have a lot of IEP's due!

Here is my list of helpful hints:

Vitamin B 6 is often recommended for mild cases-it helped my mother for awhile.

When I have pain-I wear a brace while driving-I drive a lot and that seems to be when I first start noticing a "flare-up".  That has helped a lot- (Also wearing a brace while sleeping helps somewhat).

Ibuprofin helps in the pain at night

There are exercises you can do (google them) to help prevent.

Lisa , pre-k - SLP August 4, 2010 6:30 PM

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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