I just got a split computer keyboard at work. What’s the best way to set it up to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome?

Research has shown that you can set up your split keyboard in a variety of ways and still maintain the healthy wrist position that can ease wrist strain. You could, for example, separate the two halves so your hands are shoulder-distance apart. Angling the two halves outward slightly can help keep your wrists in a straight line. Either way, you may have fewer problems when the keyboard sections are positioned to keep your wrists in a straight line with your forearms. You may want to work with a physical therapist to find the keyboard setup that is best for you.

I’ve seen some strange-looking computer keyboards around the office. These boards are actually split in half. I already have a wrist pad by my keyboard. Would it make a difference if I got one of the fancy new keyboards?

One of the benefits of split computer keyboards is that they help keep your wrists in line with your forearms. This alignment can help ease tension on the wrists and may help prevent wrist problems, such as wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

A wrist pad can keep your hands at the same level as your wrists while you type, but it won’t prevent your elbows from jutting outward. When your elbows are out, the line between your wrists and forearms gets thrown out of whack. A split computer keyboard is a helpful way to keep your wrists healthy while you work.

My symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome have been hanging on for months. Now my doctor wants to give me a steroid injection in my wrist. I’ve heard steroids can be really harmful. Is this true?

The negative news about steroid use for painful conditions usually centers around excessive use of the drug. Getting injections over and over into the same spot eventually causes the soft tissues in the area to weaken, making them more susceptible to injury.

The long-term results of steroid injections for carpal tunnel syndrome are not all that promising. So if your doctor suggests an injection, it is not likely this treatment will be repeated, even if it helps you feel better for a while.

I have carpal tunnel syndrome. My doctor insists that the symptoms in my thumb and fingers will eventually go away if I get another steroid injection. I’ve already had three shots into my wrist. What should I do?

Injecting steroid medications into the wrist usually only provides short-term relief for symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Since the benefits don’t tend to last, and because repeated injections of steroids can weaken soft tissues in the area, doctors are often very hesitant to repeat this kind of treatment.

Share your concerns with your doctor. If you are unhappy with the response you receive, you’re entirely within your rights to seek out another doctor’s opinion.

I have carpal tunnel syndrome. My doctor suggested I get a steroid injection into my wrist to take away the swelling that is putting pressure on the nerve. Is it possible the medication could harm the nerve? What if the needle pokes into the nerve?

Getting an injection into the carpal tunnel is not without risks. But the probability is low that the needle would poke the nerve, and it’s not likely the medication would be accidently injected directly into the median nerve. If either of these two problems were to happen, there’s a chance you might experience pain, numbness, or a sensation of pins and needles in the thumb and fingers where the nerve goes. These symptoms could continue to be felt for several weeks after the injection. But it’s not likely you would end up with lasting problems.

The problems I’m having from carpal tunnel syndrome are keeping me from doing my job. My brother-in-law had surgery for this same type of problem, and he got back to work almost right away. My doctor is urging me to be more patient and try a slower approach. I would rather just go ahead and get the surgery. How can I convince my doctor?

Everyone’s health problems are different. Just because your brother-in-law’s case went a certain way that doesn’t mean yours will too. Perhaps your doctor feels there’s a benefit to holding off on surgery at this time. Discuss your options with your doctor to get a clear idea of the timeframe your doctor thinks will be needed to help you improve with out surgery and what steps will be taken if you don’t see improvement.

The muscles on the back of my hand and the inside pad of my palm have shrunk. My grip is weak, and my hand seems clumsy. My doctor says it’s from thoracic outlet syndrome. I’ve started doing exercises. Will the muscles heal, and will my strength come back?

Hand muscles that actually shrink suggest that you have had significant pressure on the ulnar nerve, which runs down your arm and into your hand. Once the pressure is removed, your hand strength should eventually come back. You may find that your strength returns before the muscles get bigger. Getting the muscles back to their original size may take some time.

One doctor thinks the symptoms in my arm and hand are coming from carpal tunnel syndrome. Another says the problem is thoracic outlet syndrome. Who is right?

They both may be right. It is well documented that both conditions can happen at the same time. Both syndromes are caused by doing repeated activities with the hands and arms. And they both cause similar symptoms.

One theory about why these conditions happen together is called the double crush phenomenon. Pressure at one end of the nerve path can set the stage for problems at the other end–a double crush. In this theory, pressure problems in the carpal tunnel in the hand can actually lead to problems at the other end of the nerve, near the thoracic outlet. The opposite is true too. Pressure near the thoracic outlet can end up causing problems of carpal tunnel syndrome at the other end of the nerve.