09 July 2012

Numb and Nummer

Last year both of my hands went numb. They'd been tingly and uncomfortable before, but not like this. When they weren't numb, the pain was agonizing, excruciating enough to wake me from a sound sleep.  Being type 1 diabetic, I attributed the problem to neuropathy, but my endocrinologist insisted I have testing.  For those of you who've never needed these tests, the technician sticks needles in varying points on the patient's arms and hands, then presses buttons that send jolts of electricity from one needle to another.  The time between the shock above the hand and its arrival at points in the hand can be interpreted by the physician to show degrees of neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome.  My tests showed mild neuropathy and extreme carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist.

My first surgery was scheduled for December, but I postponed it because I was spending all my time with Mom then.  The right hand was "fixed" in May, and since then, what writing I've done has been left-handed hunting and pecking.  I'm still having therapy on the right hand but plan to have surgery on the left in August.

If you're reading this, you have access to computers and can look up Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) for yourself, so I won't go into many medical details, but there are a few facts I've learned that I believe writers should know.  First, there are treatments that help before surgery becomes necessary. (I ignored symptoms until they were severe.)

Second, if surgery is necessary, its success is somewhat limited by the degree of infirmity in the hands.  Third, the surgery isn't always successful and is not so minor as I thought.  Frequently, six months to ten months pass before recuperation is considered complete and the surgeon knows how much success there has been.

When a gal reaches my age, a scar or so is not going to be as upsetting as to ladies who receive scars that interfere with their bikinis.  In CTS, the scars will be either on the wrist or the palm of the hand.  I'm pleased that my surgeon makes the incision at the bottom of the palm instead of on the wrist. I think it's less noticeable and won't ever be mistaken for a suicide attempt.  Besides, when the brace  comes off, these will be scars that can be shown off without having to remove any clothing.  The doctor did tell me that though the incision was less than an inch and a half, he lifts the skin and actually operates about four or five inches in length.

If you're still with me, you're probably wondering why I chose to talk about this. After all, SleuthSayers isn't a medical blog.  CTS is not about writing, is it?  Actually, it is.  Mine is probably the result of excessive writing, both on and off the keyboard.  My point today is that I didn't know until my surgery that it could have been more easily corrected earlier.  If you're having early signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (tingling, pain, numbness and/or difficulty in moving fingers), it's advisable to have a doctor check it sooner instead of later.

Until we meet again,  take care of … YOU!

Note: Two weeks ago, I promised this week would be more about pseudonyms,but I've been too busy to finish the research, so that will come later.


  1. Good luck with making a complete recovery!
    The Biblical Preacher wrote that the making of books is a weariness of the flesh.
    Sounds as if he knew what he was talking about.

  2. Fran, ouch! Here's hope for a quick and healthy healing.
    Since I only type with my two index fingers maybe I'm not a candidate for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

  3. I can certainly relate to your situation, Fran, having had hand surgery myself recently. It wasn't for CTS but, (wait for it) 'trigger finger.' Okay, I can hear the cop jokes already, but it wasn't actually my trigger finger but my ring finger. If I made a fist and then relaxed it, that finger could not unbend. It was both painful and annoying. All better now, though sore from time to time.

    I hope your recovery is rapid and complete.

  4. David,

    I have the same problem, only with my index (trigger) finger. In my case it is not painful, only annoying. And it only happens if I apply pressure while making a fist, like when I pull weeds. I can straighten it again by pulling on it. I pass it off as a geriatric problem and quit pulling weeds. Every cloud has a silver lining.

  5. I like your attitude, Herschel.

  6. Thanks, Janice and R.T. Actually, the incision has healed nicely. David, the first time I heard of "trigger finger," was from a guitar picker from Texas. I thought it really had something to do with firing weapons which is certainly appropriate for a Texan as well as a retired police chief. Glad your surgery is better now. I agree with you that Herschel has the right attitude.

    No kidding, though, if any of you develop CTS symptoms, please don't put off seeing a doctor! (R.T., it sounds as though if you get it, it won't be from typing.)

  7. Fran, I've been experiencing problems and I've been wondering about CTS.

    I knew a woman who had CTS so severe she couldn't write. I based a short mystery on her.

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