Carpeting the tunnel

So… feel free to get all the jokes and stupid out of your system before we continue. Seriously, I’ve heard them all.

Wrist pain isn’t always RSI

I’ve been dealing with wrist pains for a long time. Not really sure how long. I remember noticing it when I was in highschool, at least 20 years ago. It was always a fairly minor thing compared to everything else broken about me. We all made the jokes about too much time on the computer and too much masturbating and just kind of left it at that.

It’s not just the pain though. I’d wake up in the morning with pins and needles in my hand and fingers, and I’d regularly lose all of my grip strength. Home was conveniently set up so it didn’t matter that much that I couldn’t grab things reliably though, so none of it really registered as a problem. Just every now and then when the pain got worse I’d wear wrist splints for a while and everything would be fine by the time I got sick of wearing them.

Lately though I’ve managed to deal with most of my other significant issues. Now the wrists are giving me grief again but there’s nothing else that’s more of a problem. I’ve been back and forth to my doctor about it, and she diagnosed it as “almost certainly Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”.

Why is your wrist in a tunnel?

Actually, the tunnel is in my wrist. And yours. Everyone has them. The carpal tunnel is the channel all the nerves and tendons and stuff run through to get to your hand. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is where that tunnel is smaller than it needs to be, which messes with the nerves and makes things all busted up.

The biggest difference between this and RSI is that RSI is caused by stress and strain on the wrist, but Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is more or less a genetic thing. Unsurprisingly you can aggravate it with all the things that cause RSI as well… which makes diagnosis weird but possible.

According to my GP, there are a bunch of indications that I had CTS and not RSI, and figured this was good enough. So we’ve been doing the gradual ramp-up from treatment to treatment, and got to the point where we’re kind of out of simple options. The splints help but not heaps. The injections were weird and great but they lasted for maybe a week and a half before everything went to shit again. This leaves the surgical option. Hooray.

But now I’ve been referred to the hand specialist, he wants to make absolutely certain that it really really really really really is CTS before we do anything, so… it’s scanning time!

That sounds like… fun?

The diagnostic for CTS is called a nerve conduction scan. This is exactly what it sounds like: zapping nerves with electricity and seeing how they respond. Today I got a chance to experience it first-hand, and then second-hand too, they did both, ha ha ha I made a hand joke.

The scanner tech attached a bunch of electrodes to various places on my hands and arms, then strategically applied small shocks of electricity. It didn’t hurt, but it makes the muscles twitch and it feels weird as hell, and looks kind of funny too. Especially when I almost whacked the tech in the face…

The electrodes then measure the way everything reacts and it all gets plotted in pretty graphs and then tabulated into a form that the doctors can read. The tech took one look at the results and told me exactly what it meant, but then said “the doctor will be here in a few minutes to tell you exactly what I just did”. I guess he likes to feel useful.

So was there a result?

Nope. Complete waste of time.

Just kidding. I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome and I need surgery.