14 November 2019

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In about February of this year, in the middle of Sydney summer, my hands started to swell. And I mean, seriously swell.  Both of them.  To the point where you couldn't see the ligaments or veins, just puffiness.  In fact, I had gained 2kg almost overnight (I know, that doesn't sound like much but for me it is).

Initially they weren't painful, just uncomfortable.  Then the pain set in and I was finding it hard to make it through the day at work. I tried some self-lymphatic drainage and lymph taping without making much of a change to the swelling or pain.

So I looked to diet and went on a three-week reset protocol to reduce inflammation - no gluten, dairy, caffeine or sugar.  Been there, done that, got on with it. Within about three days my levels of pain started to come down a bit but not significantly.  (I dropped those 2 kilos within a month.)

Checked in with my osteopath who felt perhaps it was an auto-immune condition as it was affecting both hands and came on suddenly, though my right hand was worse.  Went to my GP who ran a battery of tests and five pages of results showed everything was within normal range.  Yay!  I'm so very healthy (especially after my reset protocol).  So what's the problem? My GP couldn't say.

Weeks went by without much change other that the burning pain which had started in my hands at night, keeping me awake at night.  In frustration, one Sunday afternoon, I went to my local medical centre and the GP there instantly suggested Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. By that stage it seemed the only logical explanation to me and I was hoping to get a referral to have it confirmed.  Let me tell you, a nerve conduction test is not for the faint-hearted, but it confirmed that I had moderate Carpal Tunnel in my right hand and mild in the left.  The neurologist's recommendation?  Try splints at night for a few months, if it doesn't settle come back and he can do an injection and if that doesn't work then he'd look at surgery.

As a massage therapist you can understand how surgery just wasn't an option. So I went to the chemist and got myself a couple of off-the-shelf splints and started wearing those at night.  By that stage I had already passed the few Remedial Massage clients I had left on to another therapist as I just didn't have the flexibility or strength to do it any more. But I was still ok with doing lymphatic drainage thank goodness.

Months have passed and I have thrown everything at these hands of mine and I can say that I am at about 80% capability now.  My pain is negligible.

Here are some of the things I can do now that I couldn't do without pain (or at all) four months ago ...

  • open doors using a key
  • carry a handled bag with my actual hand
  • open both hands fully
  • open plastic containers (like the ones you get olives in)
  • put coin change into my purse
  • change gears and pull up/put down the handbrake
  • shake hands
  • hold onto a glass without having to be careful
  • take a pan off the stove
  • chop pumpkin/sweet potato/anything hard at all

Still to improve ...

  • strength
  • making a fist
  • using a knife to eat (still using a serrated one)
  • opening jars
  • squeezing lemons for my evening tea

Here are my favourite tools to help me with those things at home ...

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Here's a list of the things I've done to bring about my healing ...

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My home therapy kit

  • hand physiotherapist
  • custom-made splint
  • gliding, sponge, stretching, flexing, extending exercises
  • massage
  • rice therapy
  • crystal therapy
  • sound therapy
  • natural anti-inflammatories
  • anti-inflammatory creams/oils
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My work therapy kit

If you've made to this point, thank you for reading on.  The point of the blog is to show that sometimes healing takes a lot of work and we have to be willing to try lots of different things and different types of therapists.  And very often, we have to do a lot of the work ourselves, looking at the uncomfortable thought or emotional patterns behind the condition.

True healing comes with a marriage of mainstream medicine and complementary therapies.

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