Let’s try and avoid the slice and dice, shall we?

by Suw on February 24, 2009

In early November last year, I had steroid injections in both wrists to try and treat my carpal tunnel syndrome. After some initial side effects, the injections seemed to have done the trick. Instances of pins and needles in my hands over night decreased to nothing and I pretty much forgot that I’d had RSI. Until mid-January, when it all came back with a vengeance.

I had nine nights during January where I was getting pins and needles almost every night, and not just once, but two or three times, and it’s been like that, off and on, ever since. Now, don’t underestimate these pins and needles – it’s like a non-painful type of pain. It wakes you right up, and it keeps you awake until they’re gone. I discovered that if I stretch my neck in a certain way (away from the affected hand) the pins and needles would vanish almost immediately, almost all the time. Good trick – it helps me not wake up too much when an attack comes on.

So yesterday I went back to the physio to see what he had to say about it. Apparently, the steroids wear off in about five or so weeks, so I mine worked for about nine, which isn’t bad but not all that great either. The physio is reluctant to give me more steroids, as you can only have three injections a year and if they only work for nine or so weeks, it won’t help long term. Instead he’s referring me to the surgeon for an assessment for, well, surgery.

I’ve already had a number of tests, which have taken the form of flexing my wrists in certain ways, and pushing hard on certain points in my neck and shoulders, and I come up negative for all of them. My physio did them all again yesterday, and despite the fact that I had concluded that it’s all in my neck, he said that the tests he did proved it wasn’t.

So the first thing the surgeon will do is a “conduction” test:

In a nerve conduction study, electrodes are placed on the hand and wrist. Small electric shocks are applied and the speed with which nerves transmit impulses is measured. In electromyography, a fine needle is inserted into a muscle; electrical activity viewed on a screen can determine the severity of damage to the median nerve.

Then they’ll decide whether surgery is a good idea or not.

Now, I used to be a big gung-ho about surgery, until I actually had some. Having a naughty mole removed (twice! (with pics)) made me think a bit harder about what surgery actually means, and now I’d really rather avoid it if at all possible.

I’m not actually suffering any pain or discomfort during the day. Occasionally I get a strange sensation in my hands, but it’s not pain, it’s more a physical feeling of something wrong. It’s hard to describe accurately, but you’d know it if you felt it.

I am, however, having a lot of back pain, and I have a long, long history of some quite serious back problems. I’ve had chiropractic treatment for years, and without it I would be in a right mess now, so my first instinct is to go back to that. I had been seeing someone in Islington, but like all these things, quality varies. I lost faith in her after she suggested that the pins and needles in my fingers could be diabetes, but failed to spot that it was more likely (given my general health) to be carpal tunnel.

So that means I need to find another. I’ve had a chiro and a physio recommended to me, but they are both out of London and it would be a bit of a trek for regular consultations. A London clinic recommended by someone I don’t know looks rather expensive, and I’m not exactly what you could call rolling in it right now. I’ve had acupuncture before and that worked well for certain types of problem. I’ve been told that for some people with RSI it can work, but to be honest, I’m willing to try it regardless, because having tiny needles stuck in you is better than having your wrists slit open.

My chiro down in Dorset, who’s very good but too far away for regular visits, has told me that carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t something that she can fix. That may be the case, but I’d like to rule chiro out through experimentation. My spine needs attention anyway so I’ll benefit from getting it all sorted out and put back in the right place. And if I still suffer the pins and needles, I’ll move on to acupuncture. Surgery has to be a last resort.

But it’s important to say that this is not like the mole, where there was a danger it would turn cancerous and where it was important to move swiftly and excise every last bad cell. If I had another mole go bad, I would not hesitate to get it removed. There are some things that alternative therapies such as chiropractic can do, and there are things that they can’t. Right now, I don’t know which category my RSI falls into, so I’m just going to have to find out.

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