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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.

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 potential job risk for a hair stylist, but what I didn’t know was that it is also a complication of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It started with mild twinges

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.

Advocating for yourself: seeking another opinion

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?

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.

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 ……

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


  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi shelbiejanus. Sorry to hear about the diagnosis, but you are absolutely correct that getting the proper diagnosis is very important and presents the opportunity to prevent further damage. One of our contributors, Carla, did a series on things she would tell her younger self (I recommend all of the articles). The first article is on getting the diagnosis: She notes “having a diagnosis and actually putting a name to what was wrong with me was a blessing. Instead of bouncing from doctor to doctor and having pain and symptoms that continued to get worse – I had a treatment plan for controlling the disease.”

    Second, let me say congratulations on being your own advocate and getting the second opinion. That attitude and perseverance will take you far in managing this disease.

    I want to also point out that RA treatments have advanced quite a bit in recent years. In this article our contributor Kelly Mack (full disclosure, I’m her husband), who has had RA for 40 years, writes about the evolution of treatments and notes that she now feels there are a few tools to fight RA:

    Finally, let me say that this community is here for you with information and support. People here understand what you are facing. Wishing you the best and, if you like, keep us posted on how you are doing. Richard ( Team)

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