Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Possibly the three most dreaded non-life-threatening words to a knitter (or anyone who uses their hands). Certainly not welcome news, when the diagnosis hits.
Mine hit in 1999. Surgery on my right hand happened March 10th. Backstory here.
I thought I would give those who are on a similar path a little timeline of how it went for me. Images are tiny until clicked, for those who don’t want to see. Nothing is bloody or raw, but there are stitches in some of the images and it is a surgical wound. You’ve been warned.
Day 1: Surgery is easy as pie. Only thing that hurt was having the IVs put in. Am just sedated during the procedure just enough not to care what is happening. Have no idea when they start operating, and only know they’re done when they tell me so. I heard them talking throughout, but I can’t remember much of it.
Feel euphoric until I get home and the nerve block wears off. Take 2 Tylenol 3s every 4 hours for the next 24. Sleep reasonably well with arm and hand resting on pillow at my side.
Hand is in a cast-like splint — rigid on the bottom, bandaged on the top. Completely useless, as expected.
Day 2-4: Stop taking Tylenol 3s after day 3. Do nothing for the first two days but sleep and lounge. Hand needs to stay elevated in order not to hurt, so even walking is annoying. Some use a sling to keep the hand up. I hate having a strap behind my neck. So instead I rest, watch Netflix, sleep. Repeat.
Feed myself with pre-assembled pop-in-oven dishes that I’d prepped the week before in ziplock bags or recyclable aluminum dishes. Eat off paper plates. Dictate all text messages and emails instead of typing (this is brilliant). My right elbow and forearm become reasonably helpful tools to keep me from being fully single handed.
Wiggle fingers often, as instructed. When I shower (which I avoid, as it’s exhausting), I cover the splint with a ziploc bag and keep the arm above my head. Feh.
Day 5: Cast-splint off! I try not to feel faint looking at my Frankenhand at first. Am healing perfectly. Making a fist feels V weird. Left hand and forearm feel strained and sore from doing all the work. Keep the incision covered with a big rectangular bandaid at all times. Change daily, as it’s awfully hard to keep a bandaid sticking to your palm. Plus it gives me something to do.
Day 6-7: Tweet that left (untouched wrist) hurts more than surgically altered wrist. Fascinating. Return to the keyboard. Hand often sore, occasional electric shocks, especially when putting right arm into sleeve too quickly. Very easy to overdo it.
Wiggle fingers more now, since the cast is off and I have more range of motion.
Day 8: Finally able to hook my own bra on the normal way. This is a huge achievement (haha).
Still can’t depress an atomizer, but can (slowly) pull lighter doors open including fridge. Have been driving, steering with my left hand, and shifting from park (etc) with it as well. Clicking my seat belt in to the holder hurts.
Day 9-12: Type/mouse too much some days and feel it.
Day 13: Stitches come out. Tech uses some sort of v pointy poky thing (scalpel? I didn’t look) to help remove them which I am sure will cut me. Of course it doesn’t. Feel woozy, but it settles. Making a fist easy now. Doc says no pushing, pulling, lifting heavy anything for 6 more weeks. No direct pressure on incision. Yes, doctor. My ART therapist works on my left arm and hand, and right forearm. It helps.
I occasionally wake up with my bad hand under my face, numb and hurting from the pressure. Have an idea that might help me stop this till it heals. (Who knew I slept like this?)
Day 14: I notice the very topmost layer of skin is pulling away from the incision in the middle. It turns out to be nothing… the underlayers are all healing. Still driving left-handed, but can shift into drive (etc) with right hand. Seat belt can be problematic, but not using it is not an option so I deal. Give up on bandaids. They’re no longer sticking. Scar fully dries and doesn’t look that bad.
In terms of relief of symptoms, am finally free of post-surgical pain enough that I can start to evaluate. Ring finger continues to be numb on R side of finger as it was before surgery. Other fingers not numb. Thumb pain hard to evaluate, since it’s directly attached to one edge (or feels like it) of the ligament that is still healing. Overall, surgical pain or discomfort is worse than any CTS symptoms I’m feeling.
Day 15: I start applying Scar Fix cream, which feels pretty much like any moisturizer would. But it gives me something to do. Gently rub in circles without pressing on incision. (I get dermatitis from some of the ingredients in Bio-Oil, so I can’t use that.)
I take an old thin cotton sock and cut it into a handwarmer to wear when out. It helps protect the scar from superficial crap, and makes me feel better.
Still can’t depress an atomizer or do much of anything requiring grip, but can press fingers on keyboard, apply makeup, etc. Treated myself to an electric toothbrush, which is very helpful under the circumstances.
Day 2o: Can depress atomizer and squeeze spray bottle, but just a little. Thumb is the most problematic and uncomfortable, still. Wrist occasionally sore. Second and third fingers still lightly numb from internal swelling. Hand (in area that was operated on) is achy. Am not, thankfully, waking up with hand under face any more. Somehow my brain figured that out on its own. I still sleep with a pillow under my whole right arm including hand. I find it comforting.
Incision healing nicely. I apply scar reduction cream at least 2x daily. Not sure it’s doing anything but it feels nicer to keep it moisturized.
So healing is ongoing. I’m not to do any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling for 8 weeks from the surgery. I’m still having to baby it in other ways, and am not frustrated, just hopeful.
Trying the other therapies I did and waiting 16 years from diagnosis to surgery is, I believe, contributing to a slightly delayed healing process. Not the therapies, but just letting it go on so long. In 1999, I’d heard that I’d be out of commission for a full month if I’d had the surgery then (this happened to my ex’s aunt). And so I was spooked for a long time.
Time has passed, procedures have improved and this recovery is nothing like I imagined it would be back then. Live and learn. I’m glad I had it done, and I plan to have the other hand done later this year.