Bummed by DeQuervain’s

– Posted in: Miscellaneous
7 comments

It all started mid-August. The Mini-Maglite flashlight that I keep by my bedside blew its little hard-to-find bulb, so I took the little LED flashlight off my keychain and put it on my nightstand. When my toddler started crying that night, I pushed the button on the little flashlight with my thumb to turn it on. I had to keep my thumb on that button all through my investigation of why she was crying, suspecting she would throw up (she didn’t), and maneuvering her downstairs to the bathroom, before finally realizing I could move a clip over the button and it would stay on without the incessant pressure of my thumb.

Next morning I discovered it was tender on my wrist bone right below the thumb. And then I discovered that simple little movements, like pulling up my pants, turning doorknobs, brushing my teeth, and operating scissors were also painful. Many weeks later, I finally figured out I have DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis. Two tendons connect the thumb muscles to the wrist bone. There is a little tube right where they connect, and irritation right inside that tube causes the pain.

If I had immediately given my hand complete rest, iced it twice daily, and took ibuprofen religiously, as Jay Allen did, I might have licked the problem. Might. (Jay Allen, by the way, is the creator of MT-Blacklist, a plug-in for Movable Type that helps prevent comment spamming.) Some people in the above-mentioned comment thread had success that way. Far more of them have gone on to cortisone shots and ultimately, surgery.

And the surgery doesn’t always work.

As this website explained, “It depends on how much it is bothering you – it really is a quality of life issue. This is not a problem which can spread to other parts of your body or which must be treated within a limited period of time. Some people will have a mild problem which flares up from time to time, and treat it themselves or ignore it, others will have a severe problem which prevents them from doing many things with their hand, and feel that they have no choice but to have surgery. ” Compared to some people in the comment thread, my problem is still mild. But I think it is slowly getting worse. And the experience of most of them is that the sooner it is treated (including by surgery) the more successful that treatment is.

So I feel like I have to decide, and I don’t like my choices. I have tried to avoid doing everything that hurts, but I’m not sure that’s enough. Quite possibly some of the things I still do (such as type) cause a delayed aggravation. I don’t want to give up typing. I’ve already, in effect, given up gardening. I don’t want surgery and I certainly don’t want (shudder) cortisone shots. What I want is a magic cure that will make everything all better without any change in my lifestyle. Yeah, right.

So I’m pretty bummed. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way because, really, it’s not like I’m paralyzed from the waist down. It’s not like I’m facing multiple surgeries. It’s not like I’m living in some war-torn country trying to keep my family alive and fed. But how am I going to balance the checkbook, plan menus and write the grocery list, read my email without using the keyboard? Writing by hand hurts worse!

I tried to give my thumb a rest for two weeks, but I don’t know if I succeeded. Yes, other members of the family did the cooking for me, I only wrote left-handed, and I tried to stay off the computer. (Wound up changing the mouse to left-handed and typed that way, too.) But in my desire to remain a contributing member of the family, I continued to do laundry, folded and sorted clothes and I don’t know what else. The concept of doing nothing, absolutely nothing, with my right hand, is almost incomprehensible, both in terms of the boredom that would ensue and the guilt I would feel having everyone else do my work.

I guess this is a long-winded way of explaining why I haven’t been writing and probably will not be writing (much) for who knows how long. Any new information on deQuervain’s would be much appreciated.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy February 1, 2005, 6:55 pm

Lou, have you discovered Waiting for Spring? http://www.50degreesnorth.com/garden/ It’s written by another Zone 3 gardener.

Lou February 1, 2005, 3:05 pm

I also had cortizone shots in the wrist and all symptoms of carpal tunnel (or whatever it was) dissappeared. Yahoo. Now, I am finding that my right handed thumb really hurts when I (squeeze a lemon) use it in a certain way. My sister claims it is merly arthritis (sp). I really have enjoyed reading your beginning blog. I will fininsh it now. I garden in Zone 3. brr

Gabrielle February 1, 2005, 1:23 pm

I have no information about deQuervain’s, but I suffer for various and sundry tendinitises (sp?) and on-again, off-again carpal tunnel syndrome, and pain in my thumb right where you talk about from knitting (guess I should go look it up, huh?). Anyway, back to the point, which is this… when I first started having problems, my rheumatologist had me wear splints on the joints at night and prescribed a high dose of vitamin B6 (50mg). She said it helps regenerate nerve fibers, or something of that nature. I thought it was just quackery. Who ever heard of taking vitamins as a cure for nerve pain? But it was effective, much to my surprise. Might be worth a chat with your doctor before you let them start cutting.

But, of course, what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander 🙂 I’m sure you’ll get oodles of strange advice. I can totally relate to how such a simple little injury can radically alter your life, and the grief and guilt that comes from having to let others do for you, especially if you have a family to take care of. If I only had a dollar for every time I muttered, “This stupid (enter pain spot here) is such a waste of my time!” I’d be able to support my family in style.

Other than that, I guess my best advice is to look into devices designed for people with similar injuries such as special door handles, modified gardening tools, electric scissors, etc. There’s a ton of products out there to help you retain your lifestyle. Type “independent living aids” into your search engine to find stuff like that. My current favorite online store is http://www.activeandable.com but there are many others. I hope you can find something to help. Best of luck.

Kathy January 9, 2005, 4:06 pm

Thanks for your encouragement and sympathy re: the whole thumb/wrist thing. I plan to post an update sometime this week.

And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Try http://www.projo.com/cgi-bin/include.pl/blogs/shenews/gardenblogs.htm if you want to read other garden blogs, or click on the Recommended Links category below.

Cara January 9, 2005, 8:32 am

Just FYI, the people I know who have had cortisone shots, for various reasons, have been happy they did. Don’t know if that helps or for what reason you are reluctant to try that therapy, but I’ve heard better things about that than I have about surgery.
I just had surgery myself last year for a bunion that was supposed to alleviate all pain, and have found that the resulting aches and numb spots (it was orthopedic surgery) are almost worse than the original condition. Be careful about getting surgery. The doc I went to really wasn’t all that clear about giving me a reasonable expectation for recovery afterward.
So, again, don’t know if that helps or not.
I got turned on to your blog by the Horticulture issue I got yesterday, and have been reading it all morning and enjoying it! Helps to dream about gardens at this point, since we just got 4 inches of snow yesterday and I am a bit sore from the shoveling out.
Good luck with your thumb! It’s not a fun situation at all, being incapacitated.