Therapy: The Physical Kind.
Back in February 2009, I was diagnosed with tendinitis, in large part thanks to the mass amounts of computer work I was doing. All that mousing took a toll on my wrist, leaving my tendons swollen and all -itis'ed. I made some changes in efforts to alleviate the pain, but eventually I caved and received a cortisone injection.
My hands? Never got that break they needed. And now the tendinitis has moved from the outside of my wrists to the interior. It started just after BSparl was born, when I was breastfeeding. The hand positions required to keep the baby latched on properly weakened the tendons in my hand. And as BSparl got bigger and bigger, the stress of putting the baby in her carseat and into her crib made the tendons in my hands swell to epic proportions. Even stopping breastfeeding didn't give me any relief in the hand department.
I was permanently in pain.
After much prodding from Chris ("Baby, call the physical therapist." "Call them today?" "If you don't call them, I'm calling them for you."), I finally made an appointment with the physical therapist.
"Hi. I'm K. I'm going to help ease this pain for you, okay?" said the physical therapist as she met me in the waiting room. (Already a 180 degree difference from my interview with the primary care physician.)
"Yes, please. I've had this pain since before I had my daughter, but since her birth, it's shifted from the outside of my wrist to the inside. I'm having trouble picking her up, putting her in the carseat, and getting her up from her crib. Oh, and opening jars. And turning doorknob." I shrugged. "Anything that requires my hands."
"Let's figure out what's going on."
I'd never been to a physical therapist before, and I resisted it because I felt like I should be able to get rid of this pain on my own. It's not like I can't walk - it's just wrist pain.
"I'm going to measure the mobility you have in your wrists now, okay?" the PT asked, and I nodded. We then went through a series of wrist mobility exercises which she measured with what looked like a plastic protractor. And it was then that I realized how little comfortable movement I had in my hands.
"You are in a lot of pain throughout the day? Okay, we need to take some of the stress away from your wrists. What do you do for work?"
I laughed. "I am a writer. I work on the computer for several hours a day."
She laughed, too. "That doesn't help. How about when you aren't working?"
"I have a six and a half month old daughter. And I work from home so I can take care of her, so I'm either typing or toting her around."
"I'm not surprised. I've examined the inflammation in your hands and did you know there's actually a tendinitis called De Quervain's tenosynovitis that occurs in new moms a lot. It's exacerbated by the motion of picking up the baby."
"Wow. So is that what I'm dealing with? This decoupage syndome?" (I am clueless.)
"De Quervain's. And yes. You also have the very beginning of carpal tunnel, but we're catching it early. I'm hopeful that eight weeks of physical therapy twice a week, in conjunction with hand exercises done every day at home, that you'll have marked relief. I don't want to make any promises, but I know we can help you out."
For the rest of the appointment, we spent time reviewing the exercises I was to complete twice a day at home. (These exercises make it look like I'm painstakingly waving at someone, in slow motion. Chris is confused by this. "Are you waving at me?" "No, I'm gliding my tendons. What, that's not cool?") And the PT also used an ultrasound machine to pulse heat and vibrations into my tendons to help ease the swelling. (It was kind of neat to have an ultrasound that didn't show a baby bouncing around in there. New experience for me.) And I've also been prescribed two wrist braces to wear while I sleep to help keep my hands in a "neutral" position. (And I've tried wearing the braces to bed for the last three nights, but somehow, in the middle of the night, I end up taking them off. While I'm sleeping. Very odd.) I'm trying out everything I can in efforts to rid my wrists of this pain.
I'm hoping to see some relief in the next eight weeks, and I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll feel close to 90% once the physical therapy sessions are over.
(And, for the record, this is the way a doctor's office should be run. Attentive staff, clean environment, medical professionals who make eye contact with their patients, and a discussion about payment after they learned my name, not before. These small things make a big difference in patient experience, and I'd give this PT office a referral any time.)