Hand report

I may not have posted about it, but for about a month I’ve been going around with a brace on my left wrist. When I went for my annual physical I described a problem with lack of sensation in my left thumb, pointer, middle finger, and half of ring finger, and tingling in my arm. The doctor said the hand part sounded just like carpal tunnel syndrome but the arm could be coming from my neck. I had started doing some exercises I learned when I had physical therapy three years ago, and the arm problems were getting better. By now I’ve had two more PT appointments and the arm is lots better, but not all better, but the hand is about the same. My primary care physician sent me to the HMO’s hand specialist group. The guy there said he couldn’t tell whether or not it was carpal tunnel syndrome without an EMG, electromyogram, test. I went to Brigham & Women’s Hospital, one of the two biggest Boston hospitals (I think — Mass General is the other) today for the test. The HMO’s own group that does those tests is booked solid for a long time, and this was the best chance to be seen reasonably promptly.

The hospital is huge. There’s a main corridor marked “The Pike”, and the neurology department was at exit 7 on the pike. The exits seem as though they’re numbered like the ones on the Maine Turnpike, that is, by milepost. It turned out that my appointment was not at the neurology department proper, but on a different floor that I could get to via the elevator back at the start of the pike.

They took me after a very short wait. The test was in two parts, first with some pads on my hand and wrist with electrical contacts. It consisted of lots of little shocks. I felt like one of Galvani’s frog’s legs, with my arm bouncing around with each shock. The second part of the test required little needles, maybe like acupuncture needles but I’ve never had acupuncture so I’m not sure, connected to some electrical measuring equipment and an audio amplifier. I could hear clicks as muscle fibers contracted, and lots of clicks, like popcorn when the bag of popcorn really gets going, when I tried to move my hand or fingers at the doctor’s request (a little like arm wrestling against him.)

The upshot is that the test shows that I have a pretty severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Will they refer me to get surgery for it? I’m expecting so. Stay tuned.

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