Saturday, March 9, 2013

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

Yeah, I have a Syndrome.  Don't we all?  Whatever is bothering you, package it up in a fancy box, call it a Syndrome, and you will get sympathy.  And maybe even medical attention.  And probably pills.  And a grant from the government!  I digress.

Two summers ago, I started having a searing pain running along the thumb side of my right hand and wrist.  It hurt when I tried to pick up our one-year-old twins, when I took a cast iron pan off the stove, or when I tried to open doors with those annoying-but-with-twins-necessary doorknob covers.  Over time, it got bad enough that it would hurt like crazy almost all the time, and when it wasn't hurting, it would tingle with pins and needles.  I didn't want to cause any permanent damage, so I knew I had to do something.

I tried an inexpensive wrap-style wrist brace, but it didn't help.  I got a brace with a metal plate to immobilize my wrist, like those used by people suffering from tendinitis or carpal tunnel.  Still a no-go.  That's when I figured out that the pain was actually in my thumb.  I bought an expensive thumb-immobilizing brace, but the thumb part was too thin and it cut off circulation to my thumb.  So I just wore the carpal tunnel brace for a few months with my thumb tucked in.

I did a lot of on-line searching, and finally found this Finkelstein test:
You grab your thumb inside a clenched fist, then move the fist away from the thumb.  See if it hurts.  Great test, huh?  For me, I couldn't even tuck my thumb into a fist before it started to hurt.  So I got a positive (is pain positive?) result on that test.

The diagnosis?  De Quervain's Tenosynovitis.  Also known as gamer's thumb, whasherwoman's sprain, stenosing tenosynovitis, or mommy thumb.  It is a repetitive stress injury to the two tendons that run along the thumb side of the hand.  It isn't uncommon for older mothers (over 40) to get this.  And since I have twins I was lifting all day, it was almost inevitable.  It is often caused by constant gripping and stretching, like for golfing, knitting, hand-weeding, hammering, etc.  Here are some thing I've learned.

When you lift a child, DO NOT put your thumbs in their armpits and lift.  That puts all the pressure of their weight on your outstretched thumb.  DON'T let your thumb stay in the "L" shape.  Try to keep your thumb on the same plane as your hand (not behind or in front, pincher-style).  DO rest the hand a lot.  DO lift your child with your whole hands on his sides, or with one hand on his bottom and your other hand at the back of his neck.  DO ice the inflamed part.  DO lift heavy pans with two hands (and hot pads).  You can take anti-inflammatory medicine if the pain is bad.

If you go to the doctor, they will prescribe cortisone shots and recommend surgery.  But usually, after plenty of rest, the swelling will go down and the tendons will heal by themselves.  And you will sigh in relief.

BUT THEN DON'T HURT IT AGAIN!  (That was a memo to myself.  Sorry for the yelling.)

The next Christmas, I decided to knit slippers for gifts.  So I sat and knitted.  For days.  What a surprise that the pain flared up again!  Who knew?  I did make some mighty cute slippers, but my patient brother had to wait months until I could knit his other slipper.  And then maybe I forgot and he got the other one for the next Christmas.

AND THEN DON'T THINK YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN AND NOT HURT AGAIN!  Sheesh.  You think I would listen to myself when I am yelling like that.

A few days ago, I though I could whip out an afghan for a new baby before the new grandma flew out to visit.  She could take my gift with her.  But I'd have only two days to make it.  Two days.  Who can crochet a baby blanket in two days?  Oh, I can.  Pick me!  Pick me!  I got it 75% finished before the pain flared up again.  You think I'd learn.  So I've been resting. Sort of.  It's hard to rest.  Honestly, typing is making my thumb tingle again.

But I'd really like to finish the afghan...

To read more information about my Syndrome, look here and here and here.  Maybe we are thumb buddies?

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