Decorating With Carpel Tunnel Problems

Decorating By Denny4321 Updated 10 Feb 2009 , 2:43pm by costumeczar

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Denny4321 Posted 29 Dec 2008 , 9:40pm
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I have recently learned that I have problems with carpal tunnel and didn't know how bad until I got to the 4th tier (16-inch round) of my daughter's wedding cake. I was piping #2 dots on vines and had a lot left to do when the pain became unbearably excruciating. icon_cry.gif I prayed to finish and was able but I'm afraid to do any more decorating and I love it so! If I had thinned the icing, the dots would not be possible. Are there suggestions to help make icing more bearable without having the surgical procedure?

21 replies
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peg818 Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 1:06pm
post #2 of 22

keep very little icing in the bag at a time, rest often and try those fingerless gloves, you can find these at walmarts they are like an ace bandage type thing and will help to support your hands and wrist.

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chefbarbie0513 Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 1:17pm
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The surgery was the best thing i could have done. I still have to rest my hand but it doesnt hurt nearly as much as it did

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Mike1394 Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 1:39pm
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STRETCH. Stretch out the forearm area. This will lengthen the tendons, and ligaments again. Carpel tunnel is because these have shortened over time. To stretch just pull your hand back over the thop of the forearm. Do this a couple times a day.


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vickymacd Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 1:46pm
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I was just discussing this with my son this morning. I'm in my 50's and am just starting to get carpal tunnel. I can't imagine what my son's generation is going to deal with, with their texting, computers, games, etc.

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cakedout Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 1:51pm
post #6 of 22

Wear a wrist splint during the night. I also wore one while decorating-it helped a lot.

Ibuprofin and ice to reduce swelling.

Pick up heavy objects (like your batter bowl) with BOTH hands.

Go see your orthopedic doctor!

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classiccake Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 7:46pm
post #7 of 22

I have had trouble with carpel tunnel for years. I haven't taken the time to have surgery because I am a shop owner and I haven't had the time to take a bunch of time off.

For years, I have been wearing a brace at night (which is when I have the most problems.) It keeps the wrist straight so it does not bend and press the nerve in the tunnel. It helps immensely.

I bought the braces at my local drug store where there are knee braces, etc. Some braces are actually labeled for carpel tunnel.

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Juds2323 Posted 30 Dec 2008 , 8:14pm
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For me the carpal tunnel like symptoms (I don't have traditional carpal tunnel - only mid in my right hand but experience in both hands) but my symptoms behave just like carpal tunnel. The median nerve being compressed causes the symptoms. Mine isn't just a wrist compression. The median nerve (generally speaking) actually runs from your neck to your fingers. I hold my stress in my neck and shoulders and when the muscles in those regions tighten it constricts the median nerve causing numbness. So in addition to wearing braces at night I have to make sure my workspace is at the correct height and stretch my neck and shoulder muscles as well. The more stressed I get the worse my hands get.

Sorry so long.



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Denny4321 Posted 31 Dec 2008 , 9:30pm
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Thanks for everyone's replies. I feel relief just finding your support! You've given me great advice that I'll use. icon_biggrin.gif

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Sweet_Guys Posted 1 Jan 2009 , 12:38am
post #10 of 22

I was just at my doctor's Monday for the same thing...I'm not yet 40 (OK...I will be in February)...Anyway, here's what we're doing for now:

1. Ice both by putting icepack between wrists and holding, thus icing both hands at the same time. About 20 minutes each night.
2. Use the stabilizer, not the compression piece. My doctor told me to try to limit the movement, especially when sleeping.
3. He gave me a prescription for Celebrex.

It's all been helping a bit. I'm hoping not to have to go the surgical route. Unfortunately, I've been typing since I was 12.


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Granpam Posted 1 Jan 2009 , 1:07am
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I had the surgery on my left hand years ago. Actually 2 years before I started decorating cakes. The best thing I ever did. However I now have it in my right hand and am trying everything not to have the surgery. I am just not willing to be without the use of my right hand for a month. I wear a night brace and also do exercises so far this has worked for almost 2 years. If the right hand worsens to the point these remedies stop working I' have it done.

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kutabby Posted 1 Jan 2009 , 1:09am
post #12 of 22

I just had the surgery. For me, it was brought on by my pregnancies. It never left after my second pregnancy and once I started doing cakes and cookies more regularly, the pain worsened. I did the wrist guard, ice and ibuprophen route, but it was getting to the point that my hand would go numb pushing a stroller or grocery cart. After my surgery (on Halloween) I was back decorating w/in 2 weeks. Luckily, I only had cookies so no big lifting. My first cake was about 4 weeks after surgery and I was fine! I just had to be more cautious about hand washing - I wore gloves b/c of the stitches which are only in for 2 weeks. I absolutely say get the surgery if you can afford the time/$$.

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onebigdogmama Posted 30 Jan 2009 , 5:46pm
post #13 of 22

Has anyone tried those hand and wrist gloves that Wilton has? (they are discontinuing them) I guess other places would carry something similar. I sprained my right wrist a few weeks ago and I don't want to/can't wear that big brace the doc gave me--(I don't have to wear anymore.) I am basically just looking for some support. I too have the tingles and numbness from years of typing and computer work. I do rest when I am decorating. Thx!

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prterrell Posted 30 Jan 2009 , 8:52pm
post #14 of 22

Oh, honey, get the surgery! It's so quick and easy! You heal really fast. The incisions they make now days are extremely small. Both my mother and I had double carpal tunnel surgery (we each had it in both arms) and you can barely see any of our scars. Mine are about 1/2 an inch long. The sooner you get the surgery, the better as this is a progressive condition. My mom waited about 5 years to get the surgery after her Dr. first wanted to do it, and she is left with some risidual numbness and loss of fine motor skill. I had mine done as soon as I was diagnosed (I was only 28 at the time) and I have made 100% recovery. Make sure you have an orthopedic surgeon do it, btw.

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PTLA Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 3:17am
post #15 of 22

If u have this problem if u will take vitamin b6 this will help a lot if not stop it.It will take a few days to see the difference.But it will.It bothered me so much i laid awake and cried at nite.This stopped it OI was a hairdresser at the time.

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Teekakes Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 3:55am
post #16 of 22
Originally Posted by Denny4321

Are there suggestions to help make icing more bearable without having the surgical procedure?

Sorry to hear you are having this problem! icon_sad.gif

For me, the answer to your question is, no.
I lived with CT in both wrists for 20+ years prior to having surgery on both wrists. The CT got so bad the pain going up my arms would wake me up in bad pain every single night. Both arms did this but the right was a little worse than the left. I tried the braces, ice, meds, and anything else the doctor recommended for someone like me that simply did not want to have the surgeries. After about one year of this nightly pain, daily pain, not being able to peel potatoes without numbness, and dropping a few of my favorite dishes, I broke down and had the surgeries. Left wrist in Nov of 2004, Right wrist just two mths later in January 2005........or was it 2005-2006......anyway, after the left wrist I could have kicked myself for waiting so long to get them fixed and couldn't wait to get the right one fixed. I am lucky there was no permanent nerve damage as well. My doctor warned me of possible permanent damage since it was so severe and had gone on so long. Don't do this to yourself out of fear like I did!!! It is not necessary any longer!
**Within 6 months of each surgery I was back to normal. icon_smile.gif

When your pain gets bad enough you will have the surgeries............but, why let it get to that point if you don't have to. I hope you don't put it off out of fear like I did.
I am sorry you have CT. It is an awful thing to happen for people like us that use their hands a lot.

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LILBOBO1980 Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 7:10am
post #17 of 22

This is a great thread. I too have problems but they are not always present. I only seem to have problems when I use my hands a lot. My biggest thing is when I wake up my hands are extremely weak (I can't even pull a cover up off the floor) but even this symptom which I have had for years has seemed to subside. When I do a lot with my hands I get the swelling and pain. Ice has been the best thing for me and resting my hands of course.

I tried the hand braces for sleeping but for whatever reason it made it much worse for me and I would wake up with cramps in my hands.

I have not attmepted buttercream decorating yet because of the problems I have had with my hands. I plan to in the future but I am worried about my hands so this thread is a great resource for tips.

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janine1972 Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 7:44am
post #18 of 22

Oh thank you all, now i dont feel so lonely - hooray!!!! lol
I suffer from carpel tunnel in both my wrists and hands.
I really suffer a lot, as my cakes are my work!!
I have found that wearing a wrist guard, that covers the wrist and the top of my hand, and i find this gives good support - but i only use it when im not icing, But i know what you mean about the pain when icing large cakes, or modelling etc.

I was told by my house doctor not to have the surgery yet, but to wait till it gets really bad, but now i think i will re consider, and maybe see if i can get it done this year some time!!

Thanks everyone for the advice - even though it wasnt for me directly, it sure has helped me too

Have a wonderful day

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BCJean Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 8:02am
post #19 of 22
Originally Posted by Mike1394

STRETCH. Stretch out the forearm area. This will lengthen the tendons, and ligaments again. Carpel tunnel is because these have shortened over time. To stretch just pull your hand back over the thop of the forearm. Do this a couple times a day.


Yes, yes, yes. The first 3 or 4 years that I decorated (in a commercial setting) I had lots of problems with my wrist and elbow so painful it was very difficult to continue working. My doctor told me my only option was to find a different occupation. That was not an option for heart was in decorating. Shortly afterwards I met another decorator who told me about the stretching, during each break..I stretch those tendons out, as Mike said.
Here I am....30 years later...still decorating commercially, still doing those stretching exercises....and no pain in my wrist or elbow. No surgery, no pain killers, no brace.

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cuteums Posted 1 Feb 2009 , 10:12am
post #20 of 22

Another tip is to pipe decorations with royal icing. I found that it can be thinner in consistency than buttercream yet still hold up because royal icing is so stiff. I don't have carpal tunnel but I am developing arthritis in my hands. Squeezing buttercream kills my hands and I found royal icing doesn't hurt so much. All of the stretching suggestions sound like a good idea too.

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rcsen Posted 10 Feb 2009 , 5:48am
post #21 of 22

I'm going to Google some stretches right away!

Three out of five decorators have had the surgery at my work.

For the girls at work, the surgery has worked great. One decorator said it felt like an elastic snapping. Another waited until her hands were black and swollen to twice their size at night - she can't believe she waited that long until she got it done. However, I did talk to one friend (outside of work), where the surgery did not help.

I definitely need to start stretching more often!

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costumeczar Posted 10 Feb 2009 , 2:43pm
post #22 of 22

I thought that I had carpal tunnel, since my hands would go numb and tingle, etc. Turns out I have bad decorating posture, like some of the other people here icon_smile.gif When you stand hunched over a counter or a sink all day, your shoulders pull forward and the muscles on the front of your shoulders shorten. That pulls everything forward, so stretch that out by pulling your shoulders back and it can help. The forearm stretches help a lot, too.

You might want to try going to a good physical therapist before you have surgery, since someone who's well-trained can show you some stretches that can help, and might also be able to do some deep-muscle massage on the back of your shoulders. Make sure you go to someone trained, not a "spa" massage place that won't give you the deep-muscle stuff. My PT refers to that kind of massage as a "fluff and buff." icon_razz.gif

Also, sleeping flat on your back can help, since that will keep you from bending your arms into weird positions while you sleep on your side.

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