I will preface this post by saying I have photos…lots of (what I have been told) are nasty, icky, yucky, gross post surgery photos. For the sake of the queasy I will only post maybe one or two…or three…but I warn some might find them graphic…
On August 1st after having 5 year of the painful numbing and tingling in my hand I went to have Carpal Tunnel Surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is when the median nerve in your hand is compressed at the wrist. The nerve travels under what is called a carpal tunnel…hence the name. Below is a diagram that explains better than I can.
Usually the numbness and tingling are felt in the thumb, index and middle finger. But if your CTS is severe enough you will feel pain in all fingers and radiating through your palm. As the syndrome progresses you slowly lose muscle function in your affected hand. I began dropping things. I wasn’t able to open jars, or grip and squeeze my eyelash curler. At it’s worst I couldn’t feel my hand.
It is a common misconception that typing causes CTS. Doing any type of repetitive movement involving your wrist and hands can contribute to CTS…but the doctors I have spoken to are unclear as to there being one main cause. Those with certain diseases, like diabetes are prone to CTS.
I am a diabetic. I have noticed that my CTS got worse once I started taking insulin and got significantly worse when I added a second insulin regimen. I have CTS in both hands. I was under the impression that my left hand was the worst one but according to the nerve test and the EMG that I had my right hand was the worst. I also have a Ulnar nerve entrapment…fancy term for pinched nerve near my elbow- my right elbow. Mostly caused by leaning on my elbows way too much when I am working at my desk, or laying in bed watching TV. Because the pinched nerve at my elbow is causing the some loss of muscle function my dr. thought it was best to perform surgery on my right hand first…plus my right hand is my dominate hand. He hoped that the surgery would help relieve me of the pain from the pinched nerve.
The surgery itself is very common. There are two types of surgery- Endoscopic or Open. Being that I have dealt with increasing pain for 5 years; and have signs of muscle and nerve damage my dr went with the more “intense” open carpal tunnel surgery. It is an out patient procedure even though I was given general anesthesia.
Below are pics of my hand bandaged and the lovely pillow that YOU MUST take with you and sleep with for however long the dr says so. Mine said for two weeks.
I got a Rx of Vicodin that seriously did squat to alleviate the pain that I was in. I had friends that had had this surgery and I was told they were up and at’em the next day. I had the surgery on a Friday. I told my job I would be back Monday…NOPE, I took off Monday and Tuesday. Considering that I work with my hands, sitting at a desk typing I really should have taken the week off.
To describe the pain I would have to say it was like nails being driven into the palm of my hand.
Working with pain is one thing, but working with pain and ribbons of cloth around your hand is another. People who elected to do both hands at once must have had someone come stay with them. I live alone so the smallest of task were missions.
I remember I got home and I sent my sister a text saying I was ok (she picked me up. Someone has to because of the anesthesia) I didn’t think to say “Hey can I stay with you for the weekend.” I mean how bad was it going to be?
I’m dying to take a Vicodin…and I realize it is a CHILDPROOF cap. No way I could apply enough pressure to twist. Remember the left hand has CT as well. On a good day I can feel two of my five fingers.
I had to pry open with my teeth. Taking a shower, washing my hair with one hand was interesting. Going to work I wore maxi dresses. Clasping a bra one handed presented a small challenge. Eating with my left hand was so comical I stop eating food that required a fork.
I feverishly counted down the days till I would get the stitches out- two weeks after surgery. I wasn’t allowed to remove the bandage…but…yeah two days before I saw my dr I had fashioned it to not be so bulky. I was at the stage where my skin was growing around the stitches causing it to be very uncomfortable.
Below are pics of various stages of post bandage. I was like a 9 year old. I wanted to see the progression…of course I also made sure I sat through at least one YouTube video of an actual surgery. Not recommended while eating!
Right after the stitches came out
As the incision is healing
A two weeks later…the flap of skin is the top layer that was sewn together
And today, after the “flap” of skin as fallen
off peeled off
The skin is red/pinkish and tender to the touch. I have been wearing a band-aid over it because NYC/NJ can be a dirty city.
Healing definitely varies from person to person…my hand, fingers and wrist are weak…yes they say that it can take up to 6 to 12 weeks to have full function but after hearing the accounts from friends I can say that after 4 weeks I still can’t open things, my grip is getting stronger. I have been using a stressball to help strengthen the muscles.
As a diabetic healing time is a lot slower for me. I will have a scar. My incision is healing but in the last photo you can see small white dots…that is where the stitches were my friends. I don’t mind having a scar.
I’m due to see my dr in September to talk about the Ulnar nerve and if I should get surgery for that. I’m not sure if I want to have CTS surgery done on my left hand. Hard to tell since I am experiencing pain from the ulnar nerve on my right :-/ It is possible for the surgery to not have corrected the compression. My other choice is going to see an acupuncturist which I might consider once I do more research.
I decided to write this post because even though I found LOTS of medical info on the syndrome, and surgery I didn’t find many personal accounts. I hope this post helps anyone who is considering getting CTS done.
If you have had Carpal Tunnel Surgery please share your experiences.
Until next time,