Carpal tunnel and sonography

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Comments (26)

james in Lakeland, Florida

66 months ago

Hi,

I am considering going to school for sonography, but I have been reading a lot of things about sonography causing repetitive stress injuries and people having to quit because of it. I have carpal tunnel syndrome already, which is not too bad if I don't have to do the same thing for long at a time. However it sounds like in sonography you have to tightly grasp the transducer for long periods of time, often at awkward angles. I have even seen info on a handout for the sonography program from a school (not my local school) warning that people with a RSI may find the condition is exacerbated by going into sonography. I don't want to go to school for a field where I will have to quit in six months due to wrist pain.

Have things improved at all in sonography due to ergonomic equipment and more reasonable opportunities to take breaks? Or are things as bad as I have been led to believe, with employers not buying ergonomic equipment, and working sonographers too hard till they have to leave the profession due to injury?

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm not sure I can trust the people running the local program to give an honest answer since it is new and they are trying to build it up.

Thanks.

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Lily in Zanesville, Ohio

65 months ago

If you're quitting in six months due to wrist pain, you're doing it wrong.

Yes, there is an elevated risk of carpal tunnel/RSI in the ultrasound field. You need to learn how to handle the transducers properly, how to properly lift, how to push things, etc, etc.

I don't know what all hospitals are like, but mine is definitely pushing for ergonomic everything. They bought us ergonomic chairs, keyboards, even transducers. And I've had to go to three inservice meetings in the past year about avoiding injury on the job and the importance of proper posture and lifting.

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lianashep in Pepperell, Massachusetts

65 months ago

Wow, "James in Lakeland, Florida" read my mind exactly! I have the same problem and the same question.

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Michelle in Colorado Springs, Colorado

64 months ago

Personally I think that your condition will be aggravated by ultrasound. I have been scanning for 4 yrs and have pain in my wrist and scanning shoulder; and I am at the beginning of my career! I wouldn't recommend this field for you. Also, it depends on the hospital/doctor's office you would work for as far as how cooperative they are. Yes, some hospitals do push for ergonomic equipment, however, my particular hospital unfortunately doesn't want to invest in the extra expense. About nine months ago they brought someone in to tell us how to cope with the strains of ultrasound on the body... to take breaks, do different excercises in between patients. Two weeks later, they changed the ultrasound schedule by cutting down the length of appt times so we scan more patients a day and fit in 30 more patients a week. We never get a break in the day and certainly dont have time between patients to rest our shoulder or wrists!! Unfortunately, it comes down to a profit for the hospital most of the time.
I can't speak for everyone but I hope my experience helps you with your decision. I think the info you have gathered already is very accurate and should be seriously considered.

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james in Lakeland, Florida

64 months ago

Thanks very much for your input. I think another field would be best for me, one where I can vary my activities (spending a portion of each day on the phone, reading, in meetings etc.) and have some control over break times.

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Hassan 90033 in los angeles, California

64 months ago

Hello.
I just joined the forum. I was reading some comments by other members and totally loved the cooperation and interactions going on :)
I live in los angeles area and looking for a job in clinics or imaging centers within 40 or so miles of LA. I got laid off and have 3 years plus experience in a hospital. RDMS. I really appreciate any advice or recommendation. Thank you.

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marshy in Wolfville, Nova Scotia

51 months ago

Hi Guys
I have worked in ultrasound and echocardiography for 15 years. Ultrasound today has changed greatly in ergonomics and scan times and number. But ultrasound has been and always will be a physically demanding job to do. It takes great discipline to make sure you prevent injury to your arms, wrists and back . I believe you need to understand and prevent these injuries by being proactive and becoming fit and maintain good physical fitness outside the workplace. especially those arms and hands . I know it seems like alot of work that most people don't have time to do but whats wrong with developing good habits. Also most employers WILL look after their workers to prevent time loss. You just have to remind them from tie to time.

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RVS in Elizabethtown, Kentucky

51 months ago

I have been scanning for 15 years with no wrist issues at all.......BUT.........I know many who struggle with wrist issues, neck issues, and posture issues as well over time. Posture issues or slight pains/stiffness seem to get me from time to time but I haven't had any other pains.

I think much of that just depends on the person. I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with scanning wrong or using poor techniques. I don't even think it has to do with strength differences between male and female techs. My ex-wife was a sonographer for 12 years. She began having uni-lateral wrist problems within the first two years followed by bi-lateral wrist problems. She had multiple surgeries for those issues. Then she had a neck/shoulder injury and eventually nerve impingement. She left the ultrasound field completely on disability before it was all over and has never returned. Of course you never now util you try and I would not want to discourage you from trying......but you do need to be aware of the problems that might affect you once you enter into this career field.

Wrist braces and the newer ergonomics of equipment helps these issues but the overuse of your body in certain areas can take a toll on many sonographers. If you already have issues I would imagine that the probability of you having further problems after taking on the job of scanning will increase.

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Bonnie Kelley in Memphis, Tennessee

46 months ago

I have been doing ultrasound for 30 years. I first worked in a hospital for 25 years where they trained me. I am registered in abd and ob/gyn. I have now worked in clinics and now an internal medicine doctor's office where I have been for 7 years. I do not like Ob. I am also a licensed x-ray tech. I had fallen and broke my back last Nov. 2009, and I was out for ? 6 weeks. We had another ultrasound tech that only knew ultrasound, so I helped her some when she was busy (but we only had 1 working machine.) I then had to have rotator cuff surgery in Oct. of 2010. So this year I've mostly done x-ray. I'm telling you all of this because now I'm going to be doing x-ray and ultrasound. Yesterday I started back doing ultrasounds and WOW I did not realize my scapula pain had completely gone away. I could tell yesterday it is going to come right back, and I suffered everyday from it. Hopefully, I can figure out how I can scan without this problem coming back sssooo bad.

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noneya in Lufkin, Texas

43 months ago

my wrist hurts and i'm barely a student this sucks

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Christy in Richardson, Texas

42 months ago

I have been an RDCS for 3 years now. For the last year and ahalf I started a partime job on the side doing echoes on top of my fulltime job. BIG MISTAKE! I started having wrist/arm pain within the first year of echo school. Through workcomp they did an EMG and it as totally normal and negative. Three years later it is mild to moderate and my hands go numb constantly. This last year I went back to learn Vascular on top of everything. I'm having bilateral carpel tunnel and cubital tunnel next week on one side then 6 weeks later on the other. I wish I could go back and redo it over. I was scanning way to many patients in a day. I would do the bulk of the work throughout the day because I was worried and never wanted to be labled the lazy person. Well I never was, but now Im not able to work with out intense pain. Word to the wise, make sure you take care of yourself, your job isnt going to take care of you, they just want you to get the work done. All those times I knocked out some many echoes in a day when I didn't have too..... I love my job and I can't imagine doing anything else. I don't want to discourage anyone because I love what I do and I couldn't imagine doing anything else like I said. I just hope that this surgery goes well and I can strength back up and get a second chance at being me.

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Tiara in Gainesville, Georgia

42 months ago

Hello all. I just joined this forum and have been reading all of your comments. I appreciate your honesty. I am also interested in becoming a sonographer. I am curious about sonography programs. Here in Georgia we have a few accredited programs most are certificate and there is one that an associate's degree. I currently have 2 bachelor's degrees (why? not on purpose...long story) so I would like to know would it make sense to do an associate's degree in DMS or is a certificate sufficient? Both programs are 18 months, but when it comes to hiring does it make a difference? Also is there a difference in pay?

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Kayla Rabalais in Houston, Texas

41 months ago

I am a registered cardiac sonographer and have been in the field for two and half years working and three and half with school. I think if you are conisdering this field it is the case of knowledge is power. Know what you are getting into physically, mentally and how your body is. Ergonomics have come a long way from what I understand but if you are prone or already have carpal tunnel i think you should trust your body. I have personally had rotator cuff surgery on the right arm and already feeling the pain in my scanning shoulder. I chalk it up to high volume and scanning patients bedside. I do regular shoulder stretches and workouts and I still might have to have surgery on this shoulder very soon.I guess it is the luck of the draw!!! So know your limits and trust your body. I think that this is a wonderful forum for sonographers to communicate. I am considering another field because of my constant pain. But it is a wonderful career you just have to hope you can last. I agree with all of the postings above. And to those veteran scanners would you live with the pain or change to something while you are still young?

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karen in Providence, Rhode Island

41 months ago

I have been a cardiac and vascular sonographer for 22 years. I have done clinical applications , adult , pedi , echo and vascular. Great field to go into and pays well. There are alot of muscular-skeletal problems related to this field. I feel the pain every day. My co-workers are in pain as well. It doesn't matter if you are a right or left handed scanner. You must have a work environment that is willing to listen. I have just started having problems this year. Hint, do not over do it. Slow and steady wins the race. I would still pick this field. Everyday is something new. BUT I would also have another field of interest. Cross train.

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Bonnie Kelley in Memphis, Tennessee

40 months ago

I have already commented above, but I feel like I need to say more. I am an x-ray and ultrasound technician. I have given up my ultrasound to another girl that is young and a lot faster than I am. But, she is also having numbness in her hands. I had rather not hurt everyday and do the x-ray. I LOVE doing ultrasound, but my back killed me everyday when I got home. I feel like this is the only body God gave me, and I'd rather not hurt everyday. I fill in doing ultrasound when needed. It just makes me sad that everything has to be fast, fast, fast. This poor girl's is probably going to have alot of pain the rest of her life if her arms can last that long. I really don't know the answer unless you work somewhere that they will get you the right kind of strechers and not have to go so fast, but I don't know where that will be. Not anywhere that I know of.

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Katie in Cleveland, Ohio

40 months ago

Well good luck trying to tell your employer 21 scans a day is too much. I have had no luck explaining to my employer that our lab does too many echo exams a day. Several techs are injured in my lab (including me), but the lab keeps adding patients to daily schedules and adding to our scanning protocol. I have been battling with tendonitis of the wrist and elbow for over a year now. Our lab is equipped with ergonomic chairs and beds, but when you are scanning too many patients a day it does not make a difference. I also believe doing exams on obese patients has contributed to my injury. I have had to do echo exams on patients that are over 600 pounds. It is insanity. I have started to think about returning to school because life is too short to be in pain every day.

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Sonographer

40 months ago

I have been doing US for 15 yrs and I can honestly tell you all ergonomics or holding the probe right or sitting right none of these will prevent injuries 100%. the button line is that we all are going to have injuries in hands, showlder, back at some point of our career. Some start sooner than others. The point is when we are scanning the last thing in our minds is ergonomics or holding the probe right. Not possible.
I have used ergonomics for 7yrs and I too have bilateral curpel tunnel and shoulder pain.
Do not recommend unless you go into it knowing you will have problems and you are ok with that.
Good Luck!

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tsdary in De Pere, Wisconsin

39 months ago

I already have carpal tunnel from sitting at a desk and using a mouse all day and considering sonography... and I have lower back pain from a spinal fusion I had when I was younger. Am I bound to be injured w/ this profession?? This post is kind of scaring me!

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haplucki

39 months ago

Yes.I am an ultrasound tech,I have been scanning for 10 years,I am only 36 and my whole neck is messed up.I had neck surgery they fixed 2 of my discs but I have alot of other discs in my neck that are messed up.i also have bilateral carpal tunnel.with ultrasound u can get back,neck problems.torn rotator cuffs and carpal tunnel

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Christy in Wichita, Kansas

39 months ago

I made a prior comment on here 3 months ago, and I just am now returning back to work from having bilateral carpal and cubital tunnel surgeries. I am so happy to be back at work and scanning again, I was becoming alittle down after spending 3 months not doing my job. I am feeling better and having little pain. What little pain I do have is expected and should go away. I was a serious skeptic when it came to surgery, b/c my mom had carpel tunnel surgery years ago and she is worse off. But, I AM SO HAPPY I had it done, and do not regret it! The only thing I regret is dealing with it through work comp. WORK COMP SUCKS!!! Anyways.. I am back to scanning but I am taking my time and doing plenty of stretches in between my echoes and I am not doing nearly the number in echoes I was doing before. I take my time and get the work done right. No longer do I care about doing the most echoes I can in a day. I want to take care of myself, because if I don't, no one will, especially NOT my employer! I am currently doing therapy to strengthen myself back up and can't wait so that I am back to normal and can get a new job :) My job doesn't give a hoot about me and I found that out quickly. I have found a few job opportunities that I am looking into once I am better. ***You just have to take care of yourself, thats the main thing!!! BUT I TRULY LOVE MY JOB AND WOULD NEVER WANT TO DO ANYTHING ELSE!!!

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Amber in Petoskey, Michigan

38 months ago

Paula Cook in Pineville, Louisiana said: Does anyone have any information on recommended scan times for abdomen,OB and vascular? I am trying to relay to my employer that 21 scans a day is too much. I am not having an carpal tunnel issues yet
.

Go to the ICAEL.org website it clearly states that scans should be one hour per patient for quality patient care....you can even call them there is a 1-800 # on the site and report your employer :)

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CJ in Pasco, Washington

37 months ago

I'm glad I came across this blog. I've been considering an imaging career, and have ruptured discs and arthritis is my spine. I don't think there's any kind of imaging--xray-sonographer or mri career that will work for me. I desperately want to do something interesting that pays well in the medical field, without having to go to school for 6+ years. Any suggestions?

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s.a.d. in Birch Run, Michigan

37 months ago

CJ in Pasco, Washington said: I'm glad I came across this blog. I've been considering an imaging career, and have ruptured discs and arthritis is my spine. I don't think there's any kind of imaging--xray-sonographer or mri career that will work for me. I desperately want to do something interesting that pays well in the medical field, without having to go to school for 6+ years. Any suggestions?

I'm not so sure that MRI or CT is beyond your physical abilities. They are both computer driven imaging formats. Yes, you do position patients. But that involves minimal physical demands on your part. Mostly laying patients in accurate position. The rest is done with scanners & data input at scan setup. Don't give up on it yet. The best thing to do is ask to shadow someone(observation) for a shift at different worksites, ie hospital & outpatient clinics to see most accurately the physical demands. imho is more demanding for mental acuity that physical stamina. Good luck & dont give up!!

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B in Dayton, Ohio

34 months ago

I have only been working as a sonographer for 3 months and I've been having almost intolerable right-mid-back pain! I don't know what is causing it exactly, but I'm sure it has to do with my scanning. Its worst when I actually scan, and yet still hurts all the time. The hospital where I work does not have any ergonomic equipment. What do I need to be doing to stop it from getting worse? It's already almost intolerable, I can't imagine what it'll be like 5 years from now...

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Celia in New York, New York

33 months ago

One word: yoga. I mean it. What you need to do is stretch and strengthen the muscles you're using, plus balance the muscular load. However, before beginning a yoga program it would be wise to consult a physical therapist for advice on what moves NOT to do, as some can exacerbate your condition.

A visit to a good physical therapist who is knowledgeable about repetitive stress injuries would also be very helpful. One simple tool that I found to be a godsend is the Thera-band Flex Bar used in an exercise called the "reverse tyler twist." You can find a You Tube video showing you how to do this simple exercise here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZsa0bBCAf0

While this move was created specifically for golfer's elbow, you should also look for exercises which stretch the tendons in your neck and brachial plexus. Hope this helps you, it has worked wonders for me and I was once so wracked with pain that I truly did not believe I would recover. The important thing is to get a professional evaluation of your specific problem, as it may stem from something you would never suspect. For instance, I believed that my problems originated in my elbow, but I actually had a herniated disk which was compromising the nerves in my neck. Good luck!

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shannon in Louisville, Kentucky

29 months ago

I have been doing Ultrasound for 10 years. I do love my job, however I have had a lot of shoulder, neck, back pain. I've learned to deal with it the best I can, however lately, I've been having pain in my chest on the right side. It's immediately below my right mid-clavicle. It doesn't hurt any worse when I inhale or exhale. I thought it may be just a pulled muscle from scanning. However, I've been off work for 10 days, and the pain has not improved at all. Has anyone ever experienced this and does anyone think this could be from scanning. I've researched my symptoms, and it doesn't sound like pleurisy, pneumonia, TB, costochondritis or any other lung related issues. Any ideas???

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