Friday, November 9, 2012

Is making the bed hazardous to your health?

If you don't like making the bed, here's a good excuse not to.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem have associated the act of applying a fitted sheet to the mattress with a malady called "sheet fitting palsy."

They've identified the injury in people who spend a long period of time repeatedly trying to pull a fitted bed sheet over the corner of a mattress.

Caused by continuously flexing the wrist, the injury results in a tiny stroke in the artery of the hand and blood clots that cut off blood flow to the median nerve, producing numbness or weakness.

A case study was described by Wake Forest neurologist Dr. Francis Walker and colleagues in the September issue of the journal Clinical Neuromuscular Disease.

The victim was an active 73-year-old woman who was unable to slip the last corner of a fitted sheet over a mattress and had to ask her granddaughter for help. Sometimes she noticed a "pins and needles" feeling in her hand, but didn't think much of it. After she shook her hand, it would go away.

A few weeks later, when she tried to make the bed again, she tried without success to get the fitted sheet on. To her surprise, her thumb dropped down, limp, when she moved her hand from the bed corner. She couldn't tie her shoe or button a sleeve with her right hand.

Dr. Mary Lyles suspected acute carpal tunnel syndrome and called Walker to perform nerve conduction studies and an ultrasound.

Walker's study showed something few physicians have seen, the report said. "High resolution color flow Doppler showed a rare persistent median artery that had blood flow in it in the forearm, but not at the wrist where it was next to a swollen, injured median nerve."

Shortly after those tests, the patient had surgery to relive some of the pressure on the nerve, but her thumb remained limp. The surgeon advised her to strengthen it by going through the motions of her everyday activities. Just trying them could be helpful.

Slowly that strategy worked. It took nearly a year for the nerve in her wrist to grow the new pathways that allowed her to open and close a bag clip.

Researchers say the injury has also been reported in basketball players and people who perform a lot of push ups -- because of trauma to the wrist.