Sunday, July 17, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

I woke up in a reflective mood this morning. Not exactly sure why. My hand is bothering me, which is something I haven't really talked about on the interwebz much. I like most people suffer from a mild form of carpal tunnel, but over the years, I've been dealing with (by mostly ignoring) pain and loss of strength in the place where my thumb joins the hand. It would flare up a couple of times a year, and I used various splints to immobilize it for a couple of weeks, and it would (mostly) go away. Researching the web on what might be the culprit gave me the term "Mommy thumb" basically a tendinitis in the thumb pad, cause by lifting your child repeatedly. Unfortunately, I can't blame kids on my thumb. I did blame excessive computer usage, both at work and home, as well as the fact that I read books voraciously. Holding books in one hand all the time? One wouldn't think that would be a problem, would it? Meh.

Anyway, I'm not whining about it, it's something I've lived with on and off for about 10 years. It's just that the flare ups I have have been more ON than OFF. I decided to bite the bullet, and go see a doctor about it. Xrays showed no broken bones (duh), or past fractures that might have gone undetected. He ruled it tendinitis and arthritis (I didn't even know you could see that in an Xray), approved the splint I was already using, and set me up with a physical therapist for a month of PT to see what happens.

The PT, Jenny, is super nice, and her evaluation differs from the doctor's slightly. After feeling around the area deeply (ouch), she announced that it was more likely that I've lost most of the spongy material between the joints in my thumb and hand that cushion the bones, causing said bones to grind together constantly. Because those spongy areas are gone, there's a lot of room in there, causing the tendons and ligaments to flop around, and the muscles in my hand are trying desperately to pick up the slack, which is what is causing the constant cramping and soreness.

There aren't a lot of options to "fix" the problem. After I finish my PT, injections will probably be next. Reading up on it, it's a temporary fix to alleviate pain, but does nothing to fix the problem. There is a surgery available, that involves cutting away portions of the bone and replacing it with man-made cartilage to mimic what I've lost. I'm not fond of either option, but what can you do when you have lost your "pinching mechanism" and holding items in your hand causes it to shake and drop things?

There's no real reason for telling all of this, except I woke up thinking about the things I can't do anymore. Making jewelry is the biggest loss for me right now. I can't hold my pliers steady or for long periods of time, which is crucial to the type of work I did. I'd love to be able to get that back. It hasn't affected my gardening, which is why you mostly hear me talk about that these days. I can weed and pick just fine with the other hand. Cleaning and cooking have taken a hit lately, because I have difficulty carrying large heavy pots and pans.

I still read like the devil, though...I've just traded my heavy books for a Kindle. I think I probably read more than ever!

So, we will see what happens. Thanks for listening to an old broad whine about her white girl troubles. :)

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