Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What A Pain

WARNING: Very realistic pictures. Might turn your stomach!

I am so beyond excited to be back blogging again! I have been away for almost 3 months due to having two carpal tunnel surgeries and recovery! This blog describes that experience in order to help someone going through the same struggle,

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is very common and nearly 3 million cases happen per year. It is a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm due to a pinched nerve. There is burning and pain in the thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. This starts at night and wakes people up at night sending sensations to the fingers.

How it all started-

Several years ago the pins and needles started in my right hand at night. When I would awake in the morning, my hand would be numb and when I would get up, I would shake my hand and the numbness would go away. I reasoned that I had slept on my right hand wrong and that it was a busy time at work as I work on a computer. I tried compression gloves while I slept and worked and it eventually stopped!

Little did I know that it was on a break!

Then last October, the pins and needles and numbness returned on both hands. I tried the compression gloves again, however, they weren’t helping anymore. The pain and burning set in on both hands. I was previously a sound sleeper which changed as the pain and burning would wake me up in the middle of the night and I would be up for hours, I resorted to Advil PM to allow me to get some sleep.

By the end of the year, I was losing strength in both arms and simple tasks were no longer simple. I was exercising my hands, however, that did not seem to help. I was using three types of hand splints (work, evening with a cooling pack, and for sleep). Some of the tasks that I struggled with are listed below:

  • Opening jars
  • Opening Milk jugs
  • Cooking (especially chopping food with a knife)
  • Couldn’t tie my shoes
  • Couldn’t open any zip lock bags (they were my enemy!)
  • Couldn’t sign my own name much less take handwritten notes.

The real eye- opener was when I was at the gym and I was getting ready to leave and my hoodie started to fall and I instinctively went to grab the hoodie and pain shot from my hand up my arm and I almost cried out in pain! It was time to get it checked out.

At the start of the new year, I went to see my primary physician who sent me for a Electromyography/Nerve Conduction Velocity (EMG/NCV). This test gives the physician a picture of where your nerve is pinched and confirm that the median nerve compression is in the carpal tunnel. The test involves placing small pins at different places in your fingers and hand into muscles that receive impulses from the median nerve.

A electrical impulse into those muscles and observing the patient flex and relax their hand. They can determine whether the median nerve is damaged or compressed. The other parts of the test assesses pain in movements along with reflexes, muscle strength, limitation in movement, and swelling.

Results: Carpal Tunnel

Next stop was the orthopedic surgeon. When I went to the doctor and waiting in the patient room, I heard through the walls that another patient got a choice of therapy, shots, or surgery. When the surgeon came in, I was contemplating which one I would want if I got a choice. Turns out there was no choice! Right hand was severe and the left hand was moderate and I went straight to the surgery choice!!

Both surgeries were quick and two weeks apart. My hands were wrapped in a large ace bandage with a splint on the inside. The recovery was pretty short with ice on my hands for two days and wiggling my fingers for a 10-day period. Once the incisions closed up, the scar treatment began with cocoa butter and Mederma. Both worked great with Mederma the more expensive treatment.

No physical therapy was suggested by the surgeon, however, I did complete hand exercises through a digital therapist program and used putty to strengthen my hands. Such a relief to be able to sleep at night and do all the things I could do before the pins and needles showed up!!

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