Hand & Wrist Problems

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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orthopedist and a physical therapist for a hand injury

April 2008

I need to find an orthopedist and a physical therapist for a hand injury that will not get better. If anyone has had good luck with someone in either category, I would very much appreciate hearing from you. Thank you. Anon

I am going to El Cerrito Hand Therapy and Acupuncture for my wrist injury. My family doctor recommended them. They are very nice and my wrist is doing a lot better. Phone 510-525-2700, website: http://handtherapyandacupuncture.com/ Wei

Carpal tunnel surgery

Nov 2005

Has anyone had any surgery for carpel tunnel syndrome? At Kaiser? Any feedback would be appreciated. thanks, Betty

I can't vouch for Kaiser, but I can enthusiastically recommend Dr. Lamont Cardon as a surgeon in the Berkeley area! I am now mostly healed from having had my second hand done in late August, and am delighted to no longer wake up with pain, deal with fingers going numb every time I read the paper, being unable to use a hiking stick or to bicycle comfortably, etc.

Figure on a least a month of healing time while you really can't do much with that hand--if you have an infant or small child, you won't be able to lift them for at least 2-3 weeks-- and you may want/need to have physical therapy afterwards to increase strength and flexibility and reduce scar tissue in the surgical area. It is day surgery (we went out for a late breakfast afterwards both times), you'll be uncomfortable for a couple days at least, then it improves as things knit. It is not risk-free: my mother had it done elsewhere, and had residual nerve damage with one hand--I don't know if the damage was the result of the surgery, or if it might have been due to years of inflammation.

In short, I was thrilled with the results of the first surgery immediately, and while the other wrist was not nearly as impaired, I could hardly wait for the right time to get it ''fixed'' also. Good luck!! Libby

Since you didn't give any other info, I have some questions for you to ask yourself/Dr. Are you ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that you have ''carpal tunnel syndrome''? CTS is often a general term for numbness in hands, inability to grip. IT OFTEN is a problem with nerves being stressed by tight muscles in teh neck and front of shoulders. There are many chiropractors and massage therapists who have experience treating CTS.

If you haven't, here's a quick test you can give yourself. Put the tip of your thumb and tip of your pinky or index fingers together(as if giving the ''OK'' signal) and hold them. Ask someone to try to pull them apart. If they cannot pull them apart (easily) then you DO NOT have CTS. If they can pull them apart easily, then MAYBE you do, but not necessarily.

OK all that said...maybe you actually do have CTS. The surgery, I understand, lasts about 2 years. They cut the tissue around the carpal tunnel, thereby giving the nerves/muscles more room. Guess what? The tissue grows back!! If you do not change the lifestyle habits that have created the Carpal Tunnel in the first place, you will be right back where you started from.

In my experience as a massage therapist, I work with many different repetitive strain injuries and the success stories for CTS surgery are few and far between(though I''m sure there are some). I hope you will check out other alternatives before agreeing to have surgery. June K

I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist (Dr Diao, UCSF) about 8 years ago. It completely fixed the problem. My only regret was that I had not done it earlier. I suffered for years because I was scared to have surgery. I plan on having the left one done sometime in the near future. My mom had both of her wrist done in the last 3 years(one at a time) at Kaiser, Richmond. Both surgeries were very sucessful. gn

Surgery for carpal tunnel - did it help?

August 2003

I am looking for advice about Carpal Tunnel surgery. If you have had it, did it help? I work with computer software and my hands have been numb for a few years. My 3-year old is still nursing 2X a day, but my hands were numb pre-kids, and I am trying to wean her for several reasons. My hands got worse last winter when I was crocheting a lot after work. I started seeing a Hand Therapist and doing splinting, icing, Vitamin B6, and anti- inflammatories. Sometimes it gets better, but sometimes the numbness is really bad in my left hand and I feel like I can't hold things. I saw Dr. Douglas Chin today and he recommended surgery. I am wondering if there is still something else I could do or is surgery a good option? Should I get a second opinion? jeanne

You didn't mention whether you've had physical therapy. If you haven't, I recommend you get a referral from your doctor, before you try surgery. For me PT made a huge difference (I had nine months of it). I had a nerve problem in shoulder/arm/hand similar to carpel tunnel. It's not cured, but mostly better, and when it flares up, I know how to handle it (exercises, etc.) so that it never gets as bad as it was. Icing is great, and anti-inflammatories can help for a few days during a bad episode, but are best avoided as a long-term solution.

I've been to two physical therapists and noticed quality varies. So get some recommendations.

A couple suggestions in the meantime. Quit crocheting for now. Always use a headset for phone calls - never cradle the phone. Sleep with a cervical pillow (a long slim cylinder) stuffed into your pillowcase to support your neck at night -- neck tension has a lot to do with many nerve problems. Buy these pillows at the kind of stores that sell ergonomic devices. Support your nursing child with pillows (boppy, my brestfriend) so that you don't do much holding. Ice for at least 15-20 min. a shot, at least 2x/day. If you drive to work, and your shoulders are sore and need icing, slap an ice pack on during the drive. When you do tasks that take some arm strength, focus on using your back muscles (the ones between your shoulder blades) -- makes a big difference. Use a rubber glove to open tight lids. Focus on your posture: shoulders back. Do a little deep breathing every day. (Long exhale, deep inhale, lying on your back.) Helps relax the muscles that might be tense and contributing to the problem. Good luck. Mary

I had carpal tunnel surgery (laproscopic, at the UCSF Orthopedic Clinc) done 5 years ago. I suffering from pain and numbness for 5 years because I was too frightened to have the surgery done. Finally it got so bad that I had no choice. In retrospect, I wish that I had it done sooner! It completely fixed the problem and I have complete use of my hands now. My mother recently had surgery for both of her hands and is also very happy with the results. I would highly recommend surgery. Gen
I have tendonitis, and have found two things very very helpful: acupuncture, and a homeopathic ointment called Triflora (at this point I rarely have any pain, and the ointment alone shifts it overnight). Neither one helps everyone, but they just might help you. The doctor I went to was in San Francisco (I can't remember his name, but if you want me to get it let me know), and what he recommended in addition to physical therapy was biofeedback and relaxation tapes, which was interesting to try. I would certainly get a second opinion before proceeding with surgery, and ask each doctor what he or she would recommend you try before going with surgery. From what you describe that you've done, you have certainly not exhausted the options! Whatever you do, I hope your condition improves dramatically, and soon! Inbal

Yoga for Tendonitis?

July 2003

My husband has suffered from tendinitis in his arms for over five years. He has an ergonomic set-up for his computer, he uses voice recognition software whenever possible, he takes regular breaks to stretch, he has visited a physical therapist, but he continues to have pain. Recently, someone recommended yoga. I'd love to get recommendations for Yoga instructors in the area (preferably Albany/El Cerrito/El Sobrante Area, but Berkeley is OK) who are very knowledgeable about tendinitis. Better yet, are there yoga classes out there designed specifically for people suffering from tendinitis? I've read the past postings about tendinitis, but none mention yoga.

He will want to look for a ''Restorative'' class. My wife had a repetitive strain injury and has had a very good experience with Debbie Gilman's Restorative Yoga class (designed for those with injuries) Friday's 1:30-3 at the Yoga Room in the Julia Morgan Theater at 2640 College. You can see the schedule at: www.yogaroomberkeley.com. I know a friend with severe repetitive strain had a good experience with Lisa's Restorative class at 4th Street Yoga, Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9, www.4thstreetyoga.com. Finally, Linda Burnham who teaches at the Yoga Room has focused on helping students with repetitive strain injuries. You might contact her about private lessons or to get more information. She can be reached at: (510) 652-9905. par27
Bikram Yoga worked for me. It's a very intense and physical yoga with lots of stretching and movement in a heated room. I had been doing Bikram Yoga for a few years and stopped for about 6 months. During that time I suffered from tendonitis and was put into hand braces by a doctor who specialized in RSI/tendonitis. Well, that lasted about one day. I want back to yoga and was pain free within 2 weeks (I was going 3 nights a week).
My husband is a certified yoga instructor and has suffered tendonitis for 1.5 years in his elbow. He has reinjured this elbow a few times and through overcompensating with the other arm developed tendonitis in the other arm as well. Yoga can help you diminish and control the constant pain, however, it has not cured the condition. In fact, he is at the point he cannot do yoga poses involving his bad elbow. He just received Sonorex treatment (99% success rate) for his less affected arm and is scheduled for surgery on his bad elbow tomorrow to scrape out calcium deposits and realign the tendons. (3 doctors said it's the worst tendonitis they have ever seen.) We are thrilled about the surgery. It is time!!!
I certainly can't diagnose your problem, but I can share w/ you that I was really suffering from wrist tendonitis starting w/ the end of my 2nd pregnancy and still grapple w/ it a little bit. What made a marked difference for my was acupuncture. I went from acute, wincing pain (which I had been living w/ for over 5 mos when I started going) to slight occasional stiffness. The therapy took about 5 mos to get me there, but there was steady progress during that therapy.

I still have to watch it -- nursing doesn't help, nor does carrying around my 20 pound baby who hates being put down, but I no longer cry every time I slice cheese, pick up a grocery bag, or tap my arm against something. The numbness is gone now too. Hope you can shake this. elisabeth

Hi there, I also had carpal tunnel/tendonitis with my first pregnancy and it lasted until my daughter was about 8 months old, then disappeared on it's own. It was very painfull and the best relief I found was Accupuncture. I'm pregnant again and decided not to take any chances so I've been doing monthly ''preventative'' accupuncture throughout to see if I could keep it from happening this go 'round. I'm due next month and so far, no pain! My wrists are definitely weaker than usual and my swelling is worse this time if anything but it seems to be working.

You might give it a try. It was a bit strange at first but it's really not uncomfortable (except just a small bit at the beginning) and you get to lie down and relax for half hour or 45 mins which is great! The down side is that it can get expensive but probably not more than a personal trainer. Good luck

If you have not completely given up on physical therapists, I would so very highly recommend Lelia at Center Strength on Solano Avenue in Berkely. (510) 526-3757). Her work is incredible, and very subtle.

I have also found that learning the Alexander Technique has been very helpful. (Learning how to hold my head, neck, back, body) My instructor, I got from this list, is Susan Shreirer (510-482 2276) Susan healed from carpel tunnel through the Alexander Technique and because of that has become an instructor.

And finally, I would very much like to suggest that you consider saunas. No one suggested this to me, I found it out on my own, and I can't tell you how incredibly healing it is for me. I joined a gym and now take a sauna daily. Because this has been so beneficial to me my doctor ended up writing a prescription for it, so I can take the gym membership as a medical deduction. If you tell me where you live I might have gym suggestions for you.

I did not have carpel tunnel, but ulnar nerve damage -- so what was effected was my wrists and hands. The presentation to carpel tunnel, I believe, is similar -- though not exactly the same. At its worst I could not turn the ignition key in my car.

My healing has gone very, very well. Many have been surprised at my progress, because as you know people can live for years with very intense pain. My healing has taken about five months, and now I simply feel some weakness, though no pain. What I believe has helped me is the combination of the three things I mentioned above.

My very best healing wishes to you. Margo

Acupuncturists for Carpal Tunnel?

July 2003

Does anyone have experience using acupuncture to relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (diagnosis confirmed by NEC) or other alternatives to surgery. What acupuncturist/provider did you go to? Thanks in advance. Kathy

I had carpal tunnel post-partum and it HURT! After trying for months to rest and use my wrist as little as possible I gave up and had cortzone injections. I had one injection and my wrist felt much better within a day or so. Then, stupidly thinking I was all cured, I proceeded to go about my life like my wrist was fine - it wasn't. After 4 more months or so I went back and had a 2nd injection and this time was increadibly dilligent about wrapping and supporting my wrist all the time. I did this for about 4-5 months until I could be sure that it was totally healed. Sorry, I have no advice for you regarding acupuncture.
I had tremendous success with acupuncture. I was diagnosed with DeQuervain's Syndrome which is basically the same thing, only on the side of the wrist. I had 3 separate cortisone injections. Each time they worked great, but only for a few months. A year and half ago I tried acupuncture. I went in very skeptical, but here I am still pain free. I highly recommend Daedra Traughber. She is in the medical building on Post Street in downtown San Francisco. Good luck. I know how hard it is to do anything when your wrist hurts like that. I remember being in great pain just lifting a pillow. Ivy

Other recommendations received:

  • Bikram yoga
    See also: Acupuncturists for wrist and forearm pain (August 2001)

    Hand Surgeon needed for Repetitive Strain Injury

    March 2003

    I am looking for a hand surgeon or orthopedist to evaluate a repetitive strain injury in my wrist. Two have been suggested to me: Kendrick Lee and Scott Taylor, both in Oakland. I'm having a hard time finding out anything about them. Anyone have the inside scoop? Rachel

    i was under Kendrick Lee's care for a number of years for carpal tunnel in both my wrists. i found him to be an excellent physician and very conservative about surgery (which i did not have). i learned to manage it and now live a practically normal life (no volleyball, of course). i've seen many hand surgeons over the years before Dr. Lee, and he is, hands down (no pun intended), the best.
    Kendrick Lee is very highly regarded. I was impressed by him and happy with his low-intervention treatment of my wrist condition. Be prepared: it can easily be a 2 hour wait to see him!! Amazingly, despite this, people in the waiting room are not grumbly and they speak adoringly about him and his care. I can't imagine you can go wrong with him. anon
    Dr. Kendrick Lee performed surgery on both my hands and both operations were a great success. Dr. Lee is not knife-happy and saw me for over a year before I agreed to go the surgery route. Wish I had done them sooner.

    Dr. Lee was recommended to me by a friend who is an MD. She had Dr. Lee examine and treat her mother for a rather rare hand condition; her mom ultimately did need surgery, which Dr. Lee performed. My friend really like the way in which Dr. Lee was concerned about her mother's total health (pertaining to surgery needs/possible complications) and wasn't just focusing on her hand problem. a happy patient

    Kendrick Lee came highly recommended to me. I tried to make an appointment with him, but the office staff kept suggesting Glen Pfiffer instead. Finally I agreed, since I would have to wait an additional month to see Dr. Lee. I wish I would have waited. He recommended surgery too quickly and I'm still having trouble 8 months later. The guy couldn't even successfully write a prescription my pharmacy would fill. Make sure you see Dr. Lee, not his associate. anon
    I only know of Massem/Massim on your list. I was under the impression that Massim is a hand surgeon (a sub-specialty of orthopedics.

    An excellent orthopod who only does knees is Steven, Isono, M.D., in the Jack London loft area in Oakland. Be forewarned, however, that like a lot of popular sports medicine docs, he does not take insurance--cash, only. I think, however, that he does accept workman's comp. Yet another nice quality of Isono's is that he is reluctant to do surgery unless it is absolutely mandated and is a historically successful pro
    Knee knowledgeable

    Recommendations for hand and wrist specialists

    March 2002

    Any comment on Dr.Cardon, orthopaedic surgeon, hand specialist at Berkeley Ortopaedics? Thank you silvia

    Overall, I'd say Dr. Cardon is a personable and capable orthopedic surgeon and knowledgeable of his specialty - the BONES of the hands and wrists. He also always takes time to explain his diagnosis and assessments to you. He set my broken wrist and the bone(s) have healed well. However, his knowledge of soft tissue healing (tendons and ligaments, nerves) is not as strong. This is probably a function of narrow orthopedic training. I strongly recommend you work with other specialists (physical therapists, accupuncturists for example) at the same time you see Dr. Cardon. I thought if the bone(s) healed (which they did just fine), everything would be fine. At Dr. Cardon's suggestion, I waited to see these other specialists until my cast was off. I have ended up with loss of mobility in my fingers and flexibility (being able to turn my palm up). While I don't think this could have been prevented totally, I think the longer than usual casting and immobilization period (8 weeks) without any physical therapy until after the cast came resulted in soft tissue damage. anonymous
    I just finished seeing Dr. Cardon after breaking my wrist in December. He's got good qualifications and is a hand specialist. He was fine, but, honestly I did not have a complicated break. Plus, if you're looking for a lot of personal attention, you may want to explore another doctor. Finally, the office was a bit disorganized (kept losing my x-rays). Jennifer
    This is in response to someone wanting a hand surgeon recommendation for trigger finger in a former post. Markison, M.D. in San Francisco is excellent and eccentric--he is loathe to do surgery even when it is mandated. Elizabeth Lee, M.D. in Berkeley is a plastic surgeon with a fellowship in hand surgery. She, too, is very conservative about surgery but willing to do surgery when it is necessary. Her training is excellent, and her work beautiful. I put my hand through a glass window, and in two of the fingers you cannot see a trace of the original lacerations, even when one of the lacerations was down to the bone. The third laceration involved resuturing my skin--she managed to graft my skin back on AND MATCHED THE WHORLS OF MY FINGERPRINT PERFECTLY. I had no deficits regarding function and no one believes that just 4 months ago my three fingers were so badly cut up. Good luck! marquezfan
    July 2001

    I'm looking for a Berkeley area physician (and physical therapist) who specializes in carpel tunnel or hand/wrist problems. I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel the last two weeks of pregnancy and 18 months post-partum it continues to flare up and cause problems. It feels worse this time and somewhat different so in addition to doing the exercises and holistic approaches I'd like to find a physician and physical therapist who know their stuff. Marsha

    If you're on Kaiser, I really recommend Debra Hamati at Kaiser Oakland who is a physical therapist who specializes in hands. I had really painful de cuervains tenusivitis (or something like that--it's tendonitis of the thumbs) in both hands after my older son was born for more than 1.5 years) and finally I got to see her and she helped me immensely. She is very compassionate and gentle and explains things really well. -Teri
    I suddenly developed carpal tunnel, immediately after childbirth, nearly 20 years ago. I suppose it must be hormone related. I took Vitamin B6, and it went away, never to return, in a few months. I have no idea whether these 2 things were related. As for people who know their business, I have spent the last 6 months, off and on, at the Alta Bates Hand Clinic (for something totally different, the results of a broken arm) - and they seemed to me to be absolutely wonderful. I hope you find them equally good.. Mary
    I have had carpal tunnel syndrome for 12 years now. It arrived with my first pregnancy and never went away. I have seen Dr. Terrence McDonnell, an orthopedic surgeon, in Berkeley, for occasional cortisone injections and for night splints. I got a vertical keyboard for my computer which has been a great help. I recently asked my internist for a new doc to see about it and he recommended Dr. Sheldon Brown in Berkeley. Have yet to see him, but he is a total hand specialist. My husband just broke a finger and is seeing him now. He seems great. Best of luck to you. Nuckypuff
    Oct 2001

    Any feedback on Dr. Sheldon Brown located on Colby Street in Berkeley? Donata

    I met Dr. Brown in the ER at Alta Bates after shattering my wrist in a car accident. He treated the wrist there, and then did surgery a few days later. I went to him for five months afterwards for follow-up. He was regarded among the ER staff as a very experienced (some said old school) orthopedic surgeon, albeit kind of grumpy. He was relatively pleasant to me, but also somewhat dismissive. I had to insist on physical therapy -- I went so far as to point out that I didn't need his referral with the kind of insurance I had, but that I wanted the referral so the PT would know what the nature of the break was. After a month of painful, frustrating PT, I got a second opinion from a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon in San Fran (Dr.Kyle Bickel). The second doc thought Dr. Brown had done a good job with the surgery (pins and stuff), but that he had been much more conservative than he would have been, and that those conservative choices (like keeping the cast on 8 instead of 6 weeks) most likely contributed to my lack of movement. In the long run, my wrist is at 95% almost 3 years later. However, if the circumstances had been different and I had the oppt to explore all my options, I would have opted for the younger, more aggressive doc in the first place over Dr. Brown.
    Hi, I was diagnosed with wrist tendonitis during/after pregnancy by my regular doctor, then was referred to Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown spent less than one minute (I swear) looking at my wrist and told me I needed a surgery. Thanks to kind advice from fellow subscribers through UC Parents Network, I seeked second opinions, tried PT, Accupuncture, so forth. About two months later, I'm almost fully recovered without a surgery. Turned out that the wrist problem I had was highly related to special hormone due to pregnancy and breastfeeding, so the second doctor predicted basically the pain would go away once I stop breastfeeding (I was weaning anyway), and it did. Thank God, I did not seek surgery right away.