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Old 12-30-2011, 10:23 AM   #1
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Doodlebugg HB User
Nearly 3 months post CT surgery update

Just thought I'd post my experience for those contemplating surgery and looking for personal stories.

My CTS seemingly came on overnight in a big way, although my neurologist said it had to have been going on a long time. By lucky coincidence, I happened to have an appointment with this neuro just a couple of weeks after it came on (referral from my GP who thought I might have a kind of epilepsy, which I did not). I mentioned to him that I thought I might have CTS and he didn't bother with those tapping tests, just set me up immediately for nerve testing.

My symptom: one day the tip of my middle finger (non dominant hand, although I'm somewhat ambidextrous) went numb. By the next day, the numbness had spread through that finger and to the top segments of the index and one side of the ring finger, plus some tingling in my thumb. It was severe numbness, and water was torture (washing my hands, washing a dish, showering...I had to wash my hair with one hand). Water felt like when your fingers are frozen after playing in snow with no gloves and you try and thaw them out with warm water.

Over a few weeks, my hand felt like it was twice its size, the fingers felt thick and swollen (but looked okay), the flesh felt like it was rotting off (hard to explain) and my hand grew pretty useless. I dropped everything, and it was like I had this giant drunk hand. If I would try and use my hand to scratch my face, I would miss my face by a foot and scratch the air.

Other than when water touched my fingers, I had no pain. But it was miserable.

I went back to the neuro for the nerve test results, and it confirmed CTS, and he said it was bad. He said it was beyond the point of conservative measures (and he's a very conservative dr., not one to send people to surgeons) and needed surgery.

I did go to the hand surgeon, who agreed surgery was necessary. He started making arrangements for surgery, and I said whoa, let's slow down, I have things to do and wanted to postpone it for awhile. He said how long, and I said a few months. LOL.

He said absolutely not, that he would do it the next day if he wasn't booked up. WTH?

He explained that my CTS was so severe, that it was no longer about symptom relief, it was about preserving what was left of the nerve. And the fact that it had come on so quickly, he said he was "concerned about how aggressive it was."

Later, I obsessed over the word aggressive and became convinced I must have a tumor. (I didn't.) haha.

So I had the surgery a week and a half later. I'll put that in a second post because this has grown so long...

 
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Old 12-30-2011, 11:11 AM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2011
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Re: Nearly 3 months post CT surgery update

This is for people like me, who want to read play by play of this stuff before having CTS surgery. It was helpful for me to read all of that, to kind of get an idea of what I was in for. The info here gave me a good idea of what to expect. Even though my hand surgeon and nurse did a better than average job of explaining the risks and what to expect (pillar pain, etc.), it was just helpful to hear it from people who had experienced it.

The surgery...

So the surgery was a typical outpatient surgery at one of the hospitals. Mine was textbook except for the fact that the twilight sleep made me super drunk and I behaved like a fool on the table. I'm mortified. At one point, a Madonna song came on the piped-in music system, and I yelled "Bring back the 80s!" And then I sang to the song.

I also bothered the surgeon with questions, to the point that a nurse finally said "Honey, you need to let the doctor do his job and stop talking to him."

Lord have mercy. I think they finally pumped some more juice into me to shut me up.

The pain the first night after the numbing wore off was BAD. But helped by the narcotics. I hate the way those drugs make me feel and only take them when I have pain that is intolerable. (And I have a pretty high pain tolerance) I took the drugs for five days.

I don't know how on earth anyone can have both hands done at once. But I live alone, so it would be impossible. Being one-handed that first week was awful, sometimes hilarious. I had gotten a lot of soup with those pop tops, and guess what...the pop tops are next to impossible with one hand. Oops.

When I'd go to the bathroom or put on fresh clothes, pulling up my pants with one hand was insane. I constantly wore my pants crooked. Dont' even think about wearing anything with zippers or buttons. Plan on stretchy pants and tshirts.

If you live alone, I would suggest practicing a couple of weeks before surgery. Make some easy foods like microwave meals, sandwiches, soups, etc. and do it with one hand. Find out what things you can and cannot manage one handed, and then stock up on the things you can make. If you've been thinking about an electric can opener, this would be the time to buy one. Or borrow one from a friend. (I didn't have one, and don't know that it would work, I just know that I still have trouble squeezing a manual opener. After surgery it was not even possible.)

Just spend a couple of days doing basic things completely one handed. And the jokes about one-handed typing? I don't know who can manage that. I could surf the net using my mouse, but all emails and Facebooking came to a halt. I used an audio program a couple of times to send voice emails, but mostly, I just stopped for awhile.

My Kindle was a real godsend. If you've got one or can borrow one for a few weeks, it could be helpful if you like to read.

It's just amazing how much we use our hands. DUH. I had no idea.

My surgeon had warned me that I would read stuff online about people having the surgery, and when the anesthetic wore off, their hands were symptom free. (Other than the surgical pain.) He said the chances of that for me were small. And in fact, my symptoms might never go away. My surgery was considered urgent (what the heck...who knew there was urgent CTS?) for nerve preservation.

I faithfully did the exercises and followed instructions. I still do.

When I went to have the stitches removed (not painful at all, it was surprisingly very easy), he asked if there was any change in my numbness.

None whatsoever.

He was still cautiously optimistic, and said I still had an 80 percent chance in my favor, but it could take up to that magical year. (A year seems to be the magic number) Or they might stay the same.

So while I was hopeful, I remained realistic.

I did the hand exercises, got the Merderma gel (weird stuff, smells good) and did that four times a day, per his instructions. Wore the cast (wrapped in a long stretch bandage, this was what they wrapped me in post surgery) most of the time, although would take it off to breathe a few times a day. Sometimes that thing felt like wearing a girdle. (My mother used to wear those)

A couple of times I thought I had a little feeling in my fingertips, but then would realize it was just wishful thinking. Every day I would think, maybe today. Nothing.

And then one day I started to feel a little something. I was sure of it. It lasted about 30 seconds.

I also had weird electrical shocks in my wrist, I'm sure the nerve waking up. That gave me hope.

Another day, I had almost FULL feeling back in my fingers. For 30 seconds. But I was SURE it wasn't wishful thinking.

Then gradually, I started realizing pieces were coming back to life. Just a cell at a time. So subtle, it's hard to realize it until one day you start poking around and say "Wow, it's real!"

The coming back to life has happened over the last few weeks. Today is Dec. 30 and my surgery was Oct. 11. Do your own math. LOL.

What I have now is: the numbness in the middle segments of all fingers is pretty much gone. The very tips of my fingers go on and off throughout the day. The numbness in my fingertips is a lot less than it was. I have periods of five minutes at a time throughout the day with ZERO numbness. It's fabulous!!!

I'm very hopeful that eventually I'll have no numbness at all. But what I have now is so much better than it was, I'll take it. I would be thrilled with it as is because it's so minor.

On the negative side, I had no pain before surgery, and now I have lots of pain. But it's tolerable, and gets better every day. I do have the pillar pain, and my wrist is very stiff and hurts if I twist it even slightly.

The scar itself has really faded and itches sometimes, sometimes feels dry and stretched out. I use the Merderma still, and also use lotion and do massages.

I no longer wear the cast except for sleeping.

Functionally, MY HAND WORKS AGAIN!!! It's not drunk anymore, my hand doesn't feel twice its size, my fingers don't feel thick and for a few weeks now, I've been able to wash my hair in the shower with BOTH hands! Woo hoo.

I'm also getting strength back. I use spray deodorant, and didn't have enough strength to press with my bad hand, so had to buy a stick. In the last two weeks, I've been able to go back to my spray.

These things sound so minor, and in the scheme of life, they are. (Compared to a veteran who has lost limbs, for example.) But you take little things like that for granted, and when you get these functions back, it's just fantastic.

As for the post-surgical pain, I actually prefer that to the numbness. And I do expect it to mostly go away, though it's slow going.

I didn't want surgery. I googled the heck out of it, and saw so many negative stories. I only accepted surgery because I was afraid of ending up with a flipper hand. (The surgeon didn't say this, a psychiatrist friend did, because he's seen those in patients who have slit their wrists and cut the median nerve...and they end up with a hand that just hangs there.)

I do believe surgery is a real crapshoot. I rolled the dice and got (insert whatever term is a good dice roll...I don't play craps). My right hand has minor CTS, and I'm told if I wear the splint at night, I should be able to keep it from having surgery.

But if it needed surgery, I would do it again, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

On the other hand, surgery was harder than I expected, the recovery is slowwwwwwww and it really takes you out of commission. I wouldn't do surgery unless it was truly necessary. And if it is, get it over with so you can move on with life.

I am thrilled with the results, because I can use my hand again!

 
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