My journey with Repetitive Strain Injury

I am a 40 year old female who has recently been diagnosed with CuTS (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome) and likely mild carpal tunnel in both right and left arms/hands. I have been working with computers for 12+ years and frequently had the sore hand or arm, but never anything quite like this.

I have been working full-time for a software development company since October 2010. The job has been great, but very challenging and there was a high volume of work to be done. It started when my company moved my department to a new floor in our building, the desks were less than stellar and not very adjustable compared to what I had previously.

I noticed that my hands started to feel ‘cold’, but everyone in the office was always freezing so I didn’t think much of it. I eventually bought some imak gloves with the fingers cut out so I could still type and try to keep my hands warm. My hands still felt like they were freezing, I would frequently run to the bathroom and run warm water on my hands and arms. My arms eventually started to hurt and I felt a freezing burning pain go up through my ring & pinky to my forearm.

I went to my doctor, they did blood tests and sent me for an EMG which they told me I did not have carpal tunnel, the EMG was normal. When the EMG was normal my doctor basically said they had no idea and to talk to the neurologist again. When I called the Neurologist they said they weren’t certain but it was likely some kind of RSI (repetitive strain injury).

My ring & pinky finger eventually started to feel numb, like they were asleep. My arms got tired, sore, and weak… at times so bad I felt as if I could barely lift them. I called my doctor back and insisted they refer me to someone else, at this point they sent me to a hand specialist. The specialist said he was fairly certain with my symptoms that I had CuTS (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome) with possible early stages of carpal tunnel. He suggested I do physical therapy and we would follow up in 3 weeks.

The physical therapist helped me understand about RSI and I had a better understanding of what had caused my problem. With this knowledge as well as the exercises, I was able to manage my pain, but I had an almost constant numbness/tingling in my ring and pinky in both hands. After three weeks, I went back to see the Hand Specialist he recommended surgery.

I am scared at this point and undecided as to what I should do. I guess I had hoped to be able to reverse the damage with phys therapy, but they used the analogy that is is similar to your foot being asleep, the longer it is asleep for, the worse it is etc.

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