Tarpal Cunnel Syndrome – Ouch

No, that’s not my cat walking on the keyboard again, typing crazy things (although she does that often). It’s me. My carpal tunnel syndrome is acting up again, and I’m hating it. Who would have thought a little cramping in your forearms could be so bad?

Even though I’ve spent most of my adult life typing like a maniac, I didn’t actually get carpal tunnel until my 3rd pregnancy (when everything just seemed to fall apart). In fact, I found out I was pregnant after going to the doctor complaining of severe pain and cramping in my wrists and hands. I’d wake up over and over in the night with my hands so numb that I thought they were going paralyzed. Once, we called my physician father-in-law in Germany at 2am California time to ask for help. He thought it might have to do with funky way I was propping myself up on pillows at night (?), or maybe it was hormonal. Bingo! No. 2 turned out to be the trick.

Scott_hands

It’s pretty common knowledge now that carpal tunnel is associated with pregnancy. I was given lots of handouts on the topic. But here’s the bummer: after baby came, my carpal tunnel didn’t go away. It got so bad, in fact, that for a while I was wearing splints on both hands and taking 800mg tablets of Ibuprofen several times a day. I was so desperate, I dragged all three of my kids along to the orthopedist for help.

“Did anything change recently, other than having the baby?” he asked.

“Well I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few months ago, but it can’t be related to that, can it?”

Everything‘s related to the diabetes,” he replied.

Aaargh!

Sure enough: “Most studies now strongly suggest that carpal tunnel syndrome is primarily associated with medical or physical conditions, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis.”

And it’s a bitch (if you’ll excuse the expression). I never imagined how painful or disabilitating it can be. At its worst, I could literally not make toast for my kids in the morning, let alone help them button their sweaters. I could barely hold my blow drier up straight, and was wiped out from being up all night with the pain.

I happen to know that the editor of Diabetes Health magazine, Scott King, suffers from a severe case of carpal tunnel himself. He was diagnosed 10 years ago, and just underwent arthroscopic surgery in both hands on February 5th. (Those are his hands in the photo above.) I know many people are leery of “going under the knife,” because these procedures aren’t always successful. But it seems Scott’s was a great success. He writes to me, in shorthand:

“I have only one little hole in both wrists, almost healed now
but scars are still sensitive
and i can TYPE gain with no pain!
that was the worst part
after the surgery
hands hurt horrible for the 1st 2 days
(they should have given me better pain drugs, as I was in so much pain, i
had to chew up 3 vicadins just to get some relief)
but by 1 week i was flying out on a business trip, everything was
great!
I DO WISH I had the surgery earlier
as i still have tingling in my left hand, damage to the nerve”

In case you’re hit with this malady as well, Scott shares a few related articles from his publication to check out:

Diabetes Masks Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome“, July 2002.

The Canary In My Coal Mine“, February 1996.

Carpal Tunnel: Readers Respond In Droves“, January 1996.

It All Started With Tingling Fingers“, November 1995.

Anybody else out there suffering with carpal tunnel? What have you done about it, if anything? Sure makes it hard to test your glucose, no?

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16 Responses

  1. saramy
    saramy May 8, 2008 at 8:08 am | | Reply

    For years I suffered with carpal tunnel numbness and pain, trying everything – accupuncture, Structural Integration, splints, rest etc. etc. etc. Finally could stand it no longer and went under the knife. Also, I had DeQuervins (spelling??) on L thumb. Had surgery on both hands, one after the other and experienced almost instant relief. I waited to have the thumb surgery, hoping splinting and rest would resolve that issue but it didn’t, so finally had a third surgery for the thumb. Not as easy and not effective. I remained in pain for about six months and getting slightly panicked about my future with this bad thumb, I mentioned it to a practitioner of Structural Integration who had a very sophisticated focus on the biomechanics of the body (which none of the other practitioners I’d been to had had). She commented that the thumb looked out of its natural rotation. She spent about 1/2 hour working on my arm, hand and thumb that problem was completely fixed. For a while I kept waiting for it to come back, but it hasn’t after two years. So that issue was lodged in the connective tissue and surgery would never fix it! If I had been in touch with someone who understood the body so well, I wonder if I could have saved myself all the surgeries, but I don’t think so. The carpal tunnel is more complicated. If I had to do it again, I would do the carpal tunnel surgery but not the thumb. BTW,if you’re looking for complimentary / alternative work, not all Structural Integrators know about this work – so you have to ask. But when is works, it really works.

    Good luck with going forward. We don’t want to loose your brilliance because of carpal tunnel. and you don’t want to be in pain anymore.

    Be well, do good and stay connected! SaraMY

  2. barbara
    barbara May 8, 2008 at 11:23 am | | Reply

    I had my first carpal tunnel surgery in 1982 and the second several years later. Both were 100% successful, instant relief and without much pain or discomfort afterwards. I was diagnosed after nerve conduction studies and the doc said he’d never seen slower nerves. (Dx with T1 DM in 1963). I’d do it again without any hesitation—the splints and sitting up at night with pain was terrible!

  3. Scott K. Johnson
    Scott K. Johnson May 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm | | Reply

    I too struggle periodically with carpal tunnel, though it seems to happen for me with extreme physical work rather than just typing.

    I had my first experience with it after a short stint of being a truck loader at UPS. Let me tell you, those UPS folk are a different breed of people, and I have an instant respect for anyone that can do that job for more than a little while.

    It flares up for me when I work my hands too hard (we recently moved, and all that lifting did the trick!).

    I wear my braces for a while at night, and it helps. I do imagine I’ll need to get some medical help with it before too terribly long.

    And yes, I too was told it was related to diabetes.

  4. WC
    WC May 8, 2008 at 1:37 pm | | Reply

    Heh, I glimpsed the title of this post a few minutes ago and apparently my brain corrected the transposed letters. But then I came back and read it again a few minutes later and saw it with the transposition. For a minute there I thought I might be developing some form of dyslexia!

  5. Kathlene A. Larson
    Kathlene A. Larson May 8, 2008 at 7:21 pm | | Reply

    Not carpal tunnel, but de Quervain’s Syndrome, which is very similar. Only in this case, it is an inflammation of the sheath or tunnel that surrounds the 2 tendons that run along the thumb side of the arm and down into the thumb, and also control the thumb. In my case, it was my right thumb. You just don’t realize how much you use your thumb to do anything (everything) until every movement hurts.

    Tried everything (meds, rest, PT). Just as with Scott, the surgery gave me almost immediate relief. No problems now, even when I knit!

  6. Mark McKenna Little
    Mark McKenna Little May 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm | | Reply

    Great goal! After 25 years of struggling with my weight, I lost 140 pounds permanently by eating less and increasing my physical activity.

    This magic formula eliminated any trace of my Type II Diabetes symptoms and no evidence of diabetes can be detected in my blood work.

    Quite a relief after experiencing blindness for weeks at a time, numbness in my feet and taking wheel-chair assistance at the airport much of the time.

    I now run in 3-4 triathlons per year and mentored 12 people last year to follow my path. They lost a combined 321 pounds over a 7 month period

    (www.TheFitnessRace.com)

  7. Sarah
    Sarah May 9, 2008 at 12:04 am | | Reply

    The main tie in is inflammation (and possibly some subclinical cases of autoimmune hypothyroidism, which is common in Type 1 diabetics). Omega 3 EFA and other anti-inflammatories may slash the risk of some diabetes complications, and may improve CTS as well.

  8. shawn
    shawn May 9, 2008 at 4:22 am | | Reply

    i have had carpel tunnel for over 12 years, when surgery was first suggested to me
    it has gotten worse, but i am still reluctant to go under the knife
    it has gotten worse since my becoming diabetic, 3 years ago
    occassionally i see a chiropractor who snaps my wrist, and this gives me a couple of weeks of relief

  9. rlbates
    rlbates May 9, 2008 at 7:47 am | | Reply

    Wish you would submitt this one to SurgeXperiences here

  10. Kathleen Weaver
    Kathleen Weaver May 9, 2008 at 10:41 am | | Reply

    First, do you realize that there is also Tarpal Tunnel Syndrome? It happens in your ankles/feet. I’ve had a bit of trouble with that too. I have been diagnosed with early arthitis.

    I really recommend getting the Carpel Tunnel fixed. Had it done several years ago. Suggestions: do the “closed” version and find a hand surgeon.

    The first surgeon I was sent to did general surgery, mostly plastic to pay the rent, and wasn’t wild about dealing with a diabetic. He was going to do an “open” surgery.

    The hand guy was fabulous. The right was a breeze, the left was harder, but I’m left handed.

    I figure it was from years of holding my pens/pencils wrong, years of organ and typing — that’s how I put myself through college.

    I almost waited too long, according to the surgeon — I couldn’t feel my hands until around noon and then they hurt the rest of the day.

  11. Lauren
    Lauren May 9, 2008 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    I’ve known patients who’ve had De Quervain’s release and it’s helped them immensely. After watching patients suffer through years of carpal tunnel/tendinitis flares, I would go straight to a surgeon if it ever happened to me, God forbid.

    As for “everything” being related to diabetes … I am not sure of that. This is not a medically sound opinion, just a personal one. I am still the same person as before my dx. If I said to my doctor, “I have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and I have T1 diabetes,” I’m sure he would say, “Well, your facial arrangement is due to your diabetes!”

    After twisting my ankle in a pothole while jogging, I purposely omitted my medical history when I went to have my ankle examined. That way, the doctor focused on my injury rather than talking to me for 25 minutes about diabetes, which had nothing to do with my visit. If I have a diabetes-related question, I’ll ask; if not, I won’t discuss the diabetes at all.

  12. Merle Gleeson
    Merle Gleeson May 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm | | Reply

    I’ve had two carpel tunnel surgeries in my life. The 1st time was when I was 24 which was one year after my son was born. Back in 1977 this was a big surgery leaving a 3” scar and severe pain afterwards. This wrist has never given me a problem since. Then the other wrist began giving me trouble 10 years ago so I underwent the laparoscopic surgery. This brief outpatient surgery not only was successful but I never had one twinge of post surgical pain. I highly recommend this simple procedure rather than suffering with the pain caused by carpel tunnel.

  13. M
    M May 13, 2008 at 3:52 pm | | Reply

    Oh wow – is anything not related to diabetes?

    I’ve had dud-wrist-itis (why stick with boring names? lol) for years. At one point I was on pain meds, using wrist braces, and doing physio to get it all back in order.

    For some reason it was only when I gave up all those things that it started getting better! Perhaps it’s the mental thing – pay less attention to something and it gives up on you ;)

    These days I just do some basic physio exercises (Bend & stretch those wrists!) and I try not to spend too long typing or anything else that brings it on. (Note I said TRY. I’ve been known to spend 4 hours glued to my computer without even a loo break… tut tut)

    All the best for clearing it up – in the mean time, have a stern word with your arms and tell them to get in line :P

  14. HJK
    HJK April 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm | | Reply

    Does anyone here have entrapment neuropathy in their feet? Anyone have the outpatient nerve release surgery in their feet/legs? If YES, please share your stories. It is VERY difficult to find info on this topic – not to mention – VERY difficult to locate surgeons who do this surgery.

    THANKS!!!

  15. aion  kinah
    aion kinah October 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm | | Reply

    It is VERY difficult to find info on this topic – not to mention – VERY difficult to locate surgeons who do this surgery

  16. » Wayback Wednesday: Seven Things Worse Than the Diabetes - DiabetesMine: the all things diabetes blog

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