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UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care - Sunnybrook

5885 Sunnybrook Drive
Sioux City, IA 51106

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Snakebite Away Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis Pain

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By Erik Nieuwenhuis MS, PT St. Luke’s WorkSmart Injury Prevention Specialist and WELLness Consultant 712-279-1842 erik.nieuwenhuis@unitypoint.org

How many of you remember giving your friend a “snakebite” to cause them pain? Or, maybe you were on the receiving end of this prank from your brother or sister. 

This childhood prank is an awesome and very powerful musculoskeletal self-care technique to reverse, treat and prevent one of the primary causes of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis pain, both of which are among the most rapidly growing OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses. 

Most of the daily tasks in our highly computerized and technology-driven culture (texting, long hours at the computer, etc.) are completed with a high force pinching posture, using our fingertips instead of the whole hand to increase the muscle tightness of the forearm muscles. When your forearm muscles get stiff and tight overtime from repetitive and sustained use, the fascia which surrounds all muscles and connective tissues slowly compresses the blood vessels and nerves, thereby increasing their irritability. This can lead to increased muscle fatigue, numbness or tingling into your fingers, shooting or stabbing pains, dull achy throbbing pains when you pick things up or a loss of grip strength. 

I have seen amazing and frankly quite shocking outcomes and results with the snakebite technique in my 14+ years of treating patients with MSD injuries from across the Siouxland area. The exiting news is that within the very first snakebite technique, a worker’s grip strength improves, numbness or tingling symptoms into the fingers are reduced or eliminated and pain is greatly reduced immediately. Most often, a worker’s symptoms are 85% to 100% resolved within one to two weeks with the snakebite technique. Now, that is a mighty and powerful way that we can control our health care costs, improve productivity in our workplaces and restore our quality of life! 

Steps to Perform the “Snakebite Self-Care Technique”

  1. Have the person hold their forearm with palm up, and start by gripping both of your hands (right next to each other) around their wrist at the end of their forearm.
  2. With both hands squeeze to compress the person’s forearm, slowly twist your hands away from each other going in opposite directions for 4 to 8 seconds, and repeat for 1 to 2 repetitions at the same location.
  3. While you are doing this, have the individual slowly open and close their hand. This creates a muscle pumping action and helps the forearm muscles to relax, improving blood flow and taking any pressure and stress off of the nerves in the forearm.
  4. Then, move both hands up the forearm and repeat again for 1 to 2 repetitions of the 4 to 8 seconds snakebite. Keep repeating until you get to the elbow. 
  5. If you notice a more restricted or tight area of the forearm, you may want to complete 1 to 2 extra repetitions before moving up the forearm. Typically you complete 6 to 10 repetitions before you are finished.
  6. I will also do this from the opposite side of the worker’s forearm with palm up for any wrist, thumb or carpal tunnel symptoms of pain or if it is elbow tendonitis. In those cases, I repeat the same process starting with their palm down so their elbow extensor muscles are facing up.
  7. Perform this snakebite technique 1 time per day, 2-3 times per week or as needed by your forearm muscle tightness.
  8. Make sure to contact myself, your physical therapist or primary care physician if you have any questions regarding this self-care technique or if it doesn’t get rid of your carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis pain. 

Who would have ever thought that a childhood prank such as the snakebite technique would be such a powerful manual therapy technique to quickly restore the ability to type, text, use your mouse, write with a pen or pencil, shake hands with a firm grip or drive your car? Get snake bit today. You and your body will be glad you did!