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.