It’s 2 a.m. and my arm is asleep, but not me. I shake life back into my hands and try to get back to sleep. I have work in the morning. My job? A packer/inspector at a glassware plant. Long hours, repetitive, and a little boring, it can be a tough job, and it’s tougher if I’m not at my best.
I started having problems with my hands. First, it was just a little numbness, a little tingling in my fingers, mostly my index and middle finger. It wasn’t all the time, just after a hard day. I figured it was overwork. I was healthy. It’d get better.
It didn’t. I started waking up in the middle of the night. My whole arm was numb, and it’d only feel normal again after I got up and moved around. I suspected carpal tunnel. It seems everyone knows somebody with it. Maybe it was just stress.
I tried massage therapy, not just a reprieve, but for relief. I tried icing my wrists. I tried chiropractic. I tried more aspirin and ibuprofen than my stomach could handle. I thought I was young and healthy. It was time to see a physician.
The doctor asked if I had diabetes in my family. If I had any recent injuries to my neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, or hands. I told him of the repetitive nature of my work, and of the lack of feeling in my hand, especially after awakening.
He prescribed a wrist sprint that I was to wear while I slept. This would keep my wrist straight and take pressure of the median nerve, the nerve that when compressed, causes carpal tunnel syndrome. He also prescribed several physical therapy sessions.
My P.T. and the splint seemed to help, but I couldn’t take the suggestion that I cut back my work hours. Like many, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Sometimes I had mandatory overtime. This exacerbated the symptoms. I started losing strength in my hands.
I had more tests–including a nerve conduction test that measured the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. There were abnormalities. My symptoms persisted. My doctor suggested a cortisone shot for short term relief. I started considering surgery.
Surgery is usually only suggested when other treatments don’t work, and symptoms persist even if activities that aggravate the condition are stopped. I did opt for the surgery.
It’s simple in and out surgery, though recovery time is several weeks. It was several months before I could put pressure on my palms, but I did get relief and my hand strength back, and have been symptom free for over six years.