For the past few months I have been noticing pain in my right hand when I wake up in the morning due to the thumb and first three fingers being numb. I also have noticed when I bend my arm too sharply for a long period of time those fingers and my thumb will go numb. I kept hoping the pain would go away, and wondering what was causing it (cycling? a pinched nerve or muscle pull during BodyPump?). The pain did get better though… while I was on holiday at Christmas and New Years. Then, 3 weeks after returning to work, I started waking up with burning pain in my right hand again.
So I put two and two together and realised it must be work related. Yes I know what you are thinking, “duh”. But I have everything set up right! I have a gel wrist pad for my mouse and my workstation has been assessed and deemed ergonomic.
So I booked an appointment with my GP, and went in on Friday. When I described what I was experiencing he said “You probably have looked this up on the Internet already and know that it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, but don’t panic”.
First of all, amazingly, for some reason, I actually hadn’t looked it up on the Internet. For most issues Google would be my first diagnostic tool, but for this one, it just seemed to slip my mind. I guess in my head I just kept thinking “There could be a million reasons why my hands are going numb”. It was only after I went to see a massage therapist and I describe the pain in my hand she said it was most likely overuse and spent about 20 minutes massaging my forearm, which was then painfully sore for 3 days.
So I booked in to see the GP and he confirmed what I had begin to suspect, and when I heard “carpal tunnel” my first thought was “now I am fucked for the rest of my life.”.
Luckily he informed me that there are a number of treatments and most are very effective, with a simple surgery being a last resort but able to take care of the issue. He referred me to a hand physiotherapist and asked me if I wanted a shot of cortisone in my hand, which was also an effective treatment that could have benefits lasting up to a year.
I said sure, not thinking it would be a difficult procedure.
Imagine searing pain shooting up the nerve in your hand. And then, intense sharp pain every time you tried to use that hand for the next 48 hours, slowly subsiding but still recognisiable now, on Sunday evening.
The ridiculous thing is that I have worked on computers my entire adult life, however it was not until I started working at the Open Polytechnic 1.5 years ago, a distance education provider, where I engage in personal email correspondence with my 50+ students 5 days a week, using a standard mouse, that I have started having this pain.
Luckily they have been responsive thus far to the issue and have ordered me an ergonomic mouse and a standing desk.
In the meantime I am gaining appreciation for many things I used to take for granted, having 2 fully functioning hands, that I am no longer able to do with such ease, including:
- grinding pepper onto my salad
- slicing vegetables
- opening a jar of peanut butter
- getting my knickers off to have a wee
- hooking/unhooking my bra
- being able to brake on my bicycle
- tying my shoelaces
- clipping the fingernails of my left hand
- putting earring backs on
- washing dishes
- scraping cake batter into a baking dish
- and so much more..
It’s really surprising how many things you need two hands for, your at least access to your dominant hand. I won’t even bother trying to knit for a while.
I’m hoping I haven’t permanently damaged myself. I guess I will find out Tuesday when I see the hand physiotherapist.