Carpal tunnel changed my life by Marcus Kett, woodworking since 1989
This blog is my experience of being diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Like anyone who is in flicked I did my research and googled the hell out of it. But there is a lot of conflicting information out there. So I write here about my experience from the first diagnosis to the operation in 2014 and how I feel 5 years later.
My authority in this subject is only my personal experience
Please note this blog is not a medical journal by my experience having been diagnosed with CTS. This is not a medical journal and if you believe you have symptoms be sure to see your own practitioner.
When did I realise I had an RSI?
Carpal tunnel syndrome has been a part of my life which I have had to deal with. For several years since the early 21st century, I have progressively lived with these problematic sensations.
My CTS Symptoms
There were a few instances that proved to be unbearable from mowing the lawn or riding the bike. My fingers would lock and seize with severe ‘Pins and Needles’
Where there are symptoms there is a cause
I found that some discomfort could be avoided by just not participating with those strenuous exercises. Anything which put a prolonged strain on the hands and wrists. I delegated those tasks to my wife, she was so happy.
Let’s get straight to the point and open up and tell you what I have been suffering with for some while. Started with just numbness in the hands but soon I found myself to have a degree of pain. I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but there are other conditions that are related to the nerve conditions such as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is a condition.
Artisans are at risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Woodworking is not the best career I have pursued as I believe it has contributed to my condition. Over the years I have taken risks that have damaged my hands. My discomfort while working starts when using tools that require my constant grip. Tools like a plane or saw is a problem for me. I found that I must release that ‘Death Grip’ which helps reduce the effects of my median nerve damage!
Woodworkers are at risk of Carpal Tunnel
I now understand the risk and how certain woodworking processes
Bare with me I will get to the Woodworkers CTS
Carpal tunnel symptoms at night
This is where the wife complains for all the unexciting reasons! Carpal tunnel is notorious for causing sleepless nights. The tingling sensation would start when asleep and then progress to a point which I need to try and shake it out. I would lay there with my hands dangling out of the bed for some relief.
Seeking Diagnosis for Pins and Needles
As an Englishman, I decided to take the journey to the doctor’s surgery to ask what the problem could be.
In 2009 I first experienced the effects of the new Tory government cutting funds to the NHS. I went for a doctors consultation then got referred then after several visits the hospital lost my file! I was emigrating anyway to France so I thought I should suffer a bit longer and seek treatment in France once Patronised.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel is the space in the wrist where the Median Nerve passes through along with the tendons.
“It’s caused by pressure on your median nerve, which runs the length of the arm, goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends in the hand. The median controls the movement and feeling of your thumb, and also the movement of all your fingers except your pinky”. Source WebMD
My symptoms caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The tingling you and I feel is the Median nerve being squeezed and compressed in the carpal tunnel usually caused by the swelling of the tendons. My Doctor told me that the tendons swell during the nightly healing process. Like the muscles in your body which are constantly healing when they have been pushed causing tissue damage.
First I had an Xray of my wrists
My doctor first sent me to be Xray’d to explore if I was suffering from a form of osteoarthritis or another possible cause. Once this was explored and nothing to see apart from bones I was booked in for an electromyogram.
I got tested for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with an Electromyogram
This was not so bad as I expected and I brought my French friend for support but she told me afterwards that she found watching me having electrical currents put through my muscles strangely satisfying!
“Electromyography (EMG) is an electrodiagnostic medicine technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles”. From Wikipedia
2014 electromyogram 2019 CTS test result. This was my first test and was an experience. The tyest was a mix of needles and pads.
My recent retest for Carpal Tunnel was a result of increased symptoms. This test of the nerve and mucle response is the official method of diagnosing Tunnel Carpien
My Operation for CTS
Pre-op procedure in Saint Junien Hospital, France for CTS was in the order of
- Consultation and operation diary entry by the surgeon
- The week before operation consultation with the anaesthetist
- Shower with iodine soap
- Looking a bit orange!!
- Prepped in the joint room
- Taken to the pre-op ward
- Anaesthetist applied the blocks for local pain control
- Trollied of to the surgery
- Felt a bit anxious but the nurses were nice
- Under 30 minutes and all was scrapped and gorged
- Now all stitched up and bandaged like a boxing glove
- Back in pre-op or is it post-op?
- All checked and happy
- Now transferred to my room
- Waited for consultation before discharge
- Discharged with a letter for the Doctor
- Back home with a bunch of pain killers
Post carpal tunnel surgery consultation with the surgeon
My Surgeon Was very informative when I returned to the hospital for my post-op consultation. The surgeon explains to me the situation he found when he operated. He said it was a typical repetitive strain injury from excess scar tissue build up.
He removed any excess tissue does that was restricting the median nerve. He also believed that the median nerve had become compressed but that it should return to normal.
Early treatment for CTS best
I left it too late before seeking a diagnosis of my CTS. So my recommendation to you if you are experiencing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome go see your doctor.
There were treatments other than surgery
My CTS was too severe because I am arrogant and did not see the doc in time. I was told it was possible that there are a few treatments that provide relief.
- Cortisone injection in the wrist helps reduce swelling and can last weeks to months
- Wearing a wrist splint
- Stop doing work that aggravates CTS
Leaving it too long can cause permanent damage to the Median Nerve
Well Now that I’ve got my bandages off and have a full range of movement. I can already feel that there is a vast improvement. My right hand is the biggest success.
First, there was one operation but then there was two
I did not have both hands operated on at the same time. My left hand is also good but time will tell. l do believe after living with them, that there is something not quite right with my left hand. My middle fingers don’t quite feel that they belong.
My post-op conclusion
A few months in, living with my new hands has been remarkable but not without fault. Yes, the pins and needles associated with median nerve trauma have stopped. My left hand has issues but I can live with that.
2019, 5 years post carpal tunnel operation
Since the operation, my hands have deteriorated and after another scan and Electromyogram, it looks like I will be having the operation again.
What I believe that I could have done to prevent CTS
I do believe that some people are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome and is known to be hereditary although not completely. working in the construction industry for years and predominantly Woodworking. I have continuously worked my hands To The Bone or should I say the median nerve.
Bad practices that contributed to my carpal tunnel
I’ll get to the task at hand with my death grip securing my tools and plane away. I have learnt that they are are a few causes for damage to the carpal tunnel.
- gripping too hard AKA ‘The Death Grip’
- maintaining a tight grip for too long
- using tools without any kind of anti-vibration
- using tools which have handles that do not fit our hands
- not using ergonomic tools
- levering forces such as chisel work, allow the tool to do the work for you
- practices that can Damage the carpal tunnel causing excessive scar tissue and compression of the median nerve.
- Not taking enough breaks
- Crushing walnuts with my hands!
Machines not likely to cause carpal tunnel
- table saw
- band saw
- radial arm saw
- spindle moulder
Machines that aggravated my carpal tunnel
- electric drill
- hand circular saw
- square chisel mortiser
- pillar drill
- woodturning lathe
- electric plane
- Festool domino
- 4 1/2 inch angle grinder
- surface planer or Jointer
Obviously some of the above tools weren’t too bad and probably didn’t necessarily cause carpal tunnel syndrome but I’m confident in my case that they were a contributing factor.
My conclusion on my experience with suffering carpal tunnel syndrome
it’s like many things in this life, stuff is sent to try us and test us. I’m now waiting for my second operation which I expect to be probably early 2020. If the truth is to be known I have not respected my first operation and probably did too much too soon. if I could roll back the clock 5 years I would probably take a lot more care and appreciate the work that the surgeon did. but my own arrogance and stupidity has led me back to the same place I was before my operation. As a result I am to go through the operation again.
My recommendation to you would be after you’ve had your operation listen to your consultant and take precautions as not to put additional pressure on your carpal tunnel or the nerves and tendons of your hands. Use anti-vibration tools and where possible with padded gloves. I often use either weightlifters gloves or mountain biking gloves the ones without fingers. These gloves tend to have padded Palms which can reduce the load on those areas remembering that just below that pad is the carpal tunnel.
By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.
Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.
Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.
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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France
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