1 April 2014
Dealing with hand issues
So part of my tasks for March were to get back to the doctor in order to figure out what's wrong with my right hand. Last July, I went to a hand specialist to make sure nothing crazy was happening. Symptoms: slight difficulty typing and playing piano, progressing over the last nine months, with my 3rd and 4th fingers tending to stick up when I use them. Typing was slower, descending arpeggios with the 2nd or 3rd fingers crossing over was clumsy. He had me wear a brace, take ibuprofen, and make sure my office setup was more ergonomic: stop typing on a laptop and use an external keyboard; get wrist supports for the keyboard and mouse. I followed this for several months and things only got worse. What was I doing wrong?
By February, I tried additional exercises and eventually spoke with a friend who does PT who recommended some stretching and, of course, emphasized that I need to go back to my doctor. The exercises had no effect. Early March, I went back to the doctor to explain the non-change and he scolded me for waiting so long. Off to a neurologist and some not painful but by-no-means-enjoyable test that involved both electric shocks and long, thin needles shoved into muscle. Plus a neck x-ray. His diagnosis: minor carpal tunnel and, unrelated, early degenerative arthritis and bone spurs in most/all of my cervical vertebrae. Options were: cortisone shot, drugs, PT. My preference was PT, but with less than two weeks to our Italy trip, that would have to be postponed so a shot was provided in the interim. No change, but it was nice that the doctor called me the next morning to check on progress.
Days after the shot, my hand specialist finally got the results and his secretary was shocked that they didn't just send me back to them before doing anything. What do I know? Another couple of days pass and the doctor calls me directly (twice in one week?) to convey his diagnosis. Somewhat important, he emphasized that shots, drugs, PT will do nothing since the lengthy period of pressure on the nerve had already damaged it. Dead nerves don't come back, but surgery would eliminate the pressure and, with good probability, get me back most/all of my mobility.
The surgery can wait ("enjoy your vacation!" he says) and will be 15-minute out-patient with results in a couple of days. Insurance--which, around the office, is the biggest point of pain--has been, so far, pretty good. Thee are lessons here. Somewhere.
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