Carpal Tunnel and Rheumatoid Arthritis

My career in the salon industry has been an extremely successful one. For the past 16 years, I have built my business and reputation on hard work and a listening ear. I have transitioned from a junior stylist to a partner in a flourishing multi-salon corporation, an accomplishment that I am incredibly proud of.

Being a partner hasn’t changed the amount of time I spend behind the chair. For 40+ hours a week, you can find me on my feet, scissors in hand, working my a** off. I love what I do, but everything comes at a price.

How it all started

For years I felt pain in my wrists, never debilitating but often noticeable. Some days were better than others, and some days and even months would go by and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I always knew carpal tunnel was a potential job risk for a hairstylist, but what I didn’t know was that it is also a complication of rheumatoid arthritis.

Worsening wrist pain

Over the last year, the pain in my wrist worsened. It went from mild twinges to painful numbness, keeping me up all hours of the night. What had begun in my dominant hand was now affecting both hands, making work incredibly uncomfortable and increasingly challenging.

I went to an orthopedic surgeon, who then referred me to a neurologist who was able to diagnose me with carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as compressed ulnar nerves in both elbows. When I mentioned I was having pain in both knees and swelling in both ankles as well, both doctors quickly dismissed it.

Was this pain simply just carpal tunnel?

I decided to go to another orthopedist for a second opinion. I believed I had carpal tunnel, but something just didn’t seem right. We know our own bodies better than anyone. Why did it progress so quickly after years of mild symptoms? Why did other joints begin to hurt me at the same time? Why were my hands so stiff when that isn’t a symptom of CT?

The importance of seeking another opinion

I am so grateful that this particular surgeon saw beyond my carpal tunnel syndrome. His referral to my rheumatologist is what gave me my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, I am relieved to know what was causing all my pain and discomfort.

Worrying about my future

I had carpal tunnel release surgery on my right wrist last month. Surgery went well and I am preparing to have my left wrist done in a few months. For now, my diagnosis has not affected my career. I would be lying if I said that I don’t worry about the fate of my future.

My hands provide a life for my daughters. My functioning joints pay my bills. I hope that I am fortunate enough to continue on the path that I have forged for myself. One day and one haircut at a time ......

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.