I went to the neurologist on Thursday after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome by my family doctor. Thank goodness my co-worker, who had severe CTS in both hands, didn't tell me before hand what they do (No pun intended!). I was given electric shocks and had needles plunged into my arms!
I was pretty brave through it all, although those last jabs to the thumbs really got to me. I was telling Dan about it afterward and he told me that when he had these same tests done on his "dropped hand" a few years back, he got to a point where he told the doctor, "Enough! No more shocks." So I guess I am braver than he is.
So, it turns out I have mild to moderate CTS in my left hand and very mild CTS in my right hand. I knew I didn't have a severe case in my left hand - people who do have pains shooting up their arms to their elbows, but I thought it would be at least a definite moderate in my case. I mean, I have a great deal of hand pain in the mornings, my fingers tingle as if they'd been "asleep", I feel like icy-hot liquid is rushing through my hands, and my fingers are numb (except for the little finger - see in the drawing how that nerve doesn't go to to the little finger, and to only part of the ring finger?).
My doctor doesn't recommend surgery for now and hopefully I will never need it. I will wear a splint at night, take NSAIDs and have hand therapy starting Tuesday. When I made my appointment at the Bone and Joint Center the receptionist told me she has CTS too and that Vitamin B6 helped her a lot. This made me very happy because Lila at Indigo Pears told me about B6 right after my diagnosis and I've been taking it for several weeks now, so I have a head start.
All this misery happens because the median nerve leading to the fingers has to travel through a very small, rigid space at the wrist. It is surrounded by bones on three sides and a tough ligament on the fourth. The nerve has to share this cramped space with tendons. Because of irritation and swelling, the space sometimes becomes just too small and the median nerve gets squeezed and pinched. It becomes very unhappy and reacts badly!
Of course, knowing me, I had to do a lot of research on the Internet when I found out I had CTS. One of the things that upset me is that CTS is often a precursor to diabetes. I don't have diabetes but my family history is rampant with it. Another interesting thing, which I learned from my neurologist, is that people who have had tennis elbow are prone to developing CTS. I did have tennis elbow in my left arm about 10 years ago.
People are on both sides of the fence regarding whether or not CTS is caused by repetitive movement. I type all day long - did I do this to myself? However, a 2001 study by the Mayo Clinic found that heavy computer use (up to 7 hours a day), did not increase a person's risk.
Or, I could have done this to myself by sleeping on my hands, which I like to do. However, it may just be genetic. Women are three times more likely than men to develop the syndrome just because their carpal tunnels are smaller, and mine may be even smaller than normal.
But enough dwelling on how or why it happened. Now I concentrate on fixing it. I'm glad I don't have a "surgery-happy" doctor and can try these alternative therapies instead. CTS can get better, I'm told.