It’s interesting to note how much we take our hands for granted until we injure one of our fingers or have tightness building up in our hands that lead to pain. In the past 15 years, I have seen practice members who come in with different hand complaints ranging from the most infamous, “carpal tunnel syndrome,” to hands feeling numb or weak, to burning sensations in the finger tips. The common theme that seems to underlie all of the pains, numbness, and weakness in one’s hands, was the perception of having no control over what was happening in one’s life.

What truly differentiates us from the animal kingdom besides monkeys and orangutans, is our opposable thumb. Our thumb helps us to hitch hike when we need a lift (just kidding), but more importantly allows us to grab and build things. This unique ability of ours oftentimes give us the sense that we have control over our environment.

The story of Ben helps to illustrate this point. Ben first came into my office with complaints of constant left and right hand pain. For the past month, both his hands would go numb in the middle of the night and wake him up. As I asked him questions, Ben kept rubbing his hands constantly and shaking them. I asked, “When did you first begin to experience your hands being sore and numb?”

Ben replied, “Around two months ago, but it would come and go. It has been this past month where the pain and numbness have persisted. I went to my doctor and tests were run, but no clear diagnosis was determined. He thought I had a pinch nerve in my neck that was causing the pain and numbness, so that is why I came to see you.”

I responded, “Has there been anything causing you stress for the past two months – family stress, work stress, financial stress?” Ben thought for a moment and then shared, “At first I was going to say no, since I tend to handle stress rather well, but the past two months has been challenging for me. My wife has been depressed and blaming me for not supporting her enough. No matter what I do, she gets angry with me and I am at my wits end to find a solution. Even the medications that she is on, don’t seem to have any affect on her. Adding to this stress, I have two business transactions that have stalled, which has created some financial pressures that I am unaccustomed to.” After the last comment, Ben sighed and rubbed his hands again.

I mentioned, “By the way you are rubbing your hands, it appears as if you are trying to take shackles/handcuffs off your wrists. Would you agree that the amount of pain and numbness you are experiencing in your hands match to the same degree that you are experiencing stress in your life?”

Ben raised his right eyebrow, thought for a moment and shared, “I never thought of looking at it that way before, but I do feel helpless in not being able to do anything to help my wife. I tend to fix things and make things right, but I am stumped. I also feel stuck in my two business transactions and can’t do anything about it either. So I do feel powerless and handcuffed.” The moment Ben became aware of his current situation and acknowledged what he was feeling, he exclaimed, “Can it be that simple? My hands feel less painful and not as numb. Hmmmmm.”

I proceeded with the physical examination and adjusted him. As Ben learned to release tension from his spine and brought balance to his perceptions, eventually things started to shift for the better in his life and his hands ceased to be painful or numb.

If you can relate, or have a story to share, please comment below. Have you experienced hand pain? What did you find it related to? There is a benefit in expressing and exchanging our stories. Let’s hear it!