Risks and stories about DeQuervain's release
March 14, 2007 1:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a deQuervain's release within the next couple of weeks, and I'm nervous.

The web is full of stories by people who had the surgery recently -- how they can type to say "had the surgery on Tuesday and feel great!" I don't know. I haven't found much about the potential risks or stories by people who have recovered.

The short story: I'm a 26 year old woman and I spend a lot -- I mean, a lot -- of time at computers. If I'm not at a computer, I'm knitting or playing console games. Everything I like to do involves my hands.

In November, out of nowhere, I got this incredible pain in my right wrist. It was so bad, I went to the emergency room at 4:30 on a Saturday morning. A followup with a hand doctor confirmed that it was deQuervain's tendonitis. A few months in a splint, a workspace revision by an ergonomics expert, and two cortisone shots later, it's still not that much better. An MRI revealed nothing unusual. The doctor is recommending surgery.

I could live my life with this pain -- it's not debilitating, unless I'm trying to pull on something or pick up something bulky, like my fat dog -- but I'm sick of it. I haven't been able to do long sessions of console games or knitting ever since this started. I'm still able to type at work, and I still play a lot of World of Warcraft (heh), but I have to use an ice pack once in a while.

Considering that literally, everything I like to do involves my hands, what kind of risks am I running by having the surgery? The doctor mentioned a slight risk of nerve damage. If this were to happen, would I, for example, still be able to use a console controller and hit my left-side mouse button?
posted by liet to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about your specific version of RSI, but check out the archives all of the sorehand mailing list http://www.ucsf.edu/sorehand/ and this website http://www.selfcare4rsi.com/ which has a lot of very sensible advice.

Having been an RSI sufferer myself for many years, and being forced to stop working with computers altogether, I can only beg you to please, please, please realize that, although you think you're in trouble now, if you don't take your condition seriously, you could soon be in a heap load of trouble more than you find yourself in right now. Your health is important, world of warcraft isn't. Hell, even the work isn't really all that important, but that might only be my view since I live in one of those cuddly warm Nordic social democracies. The pain is your body trying to tell you something, and that something is to stay the hell away from computers as much as you possibly can, until you start feeling better again. Go buy your self some speech recognition software, for example Dragon naturally speaking. It's surprisingly good.

Stay away from computers, stress down, get some hobbies that don't involve using computers, read up on your situation, take your RSI really, really serious, but not so serious that you forget to keep your stress level low.

At least you're smart enough to use ice, I used heat packs instead, back when I was starting out with the RSI. Silly.

Surgery is scary, and I haven't heard anything good about it in the RSI community ever - stay away from it as long as possible.
posted by JoddEHaa at 3:06 PM on March 14, 2007

Considering that literally, everything I like to do involves my hands, what kind of risks am I running by having the surgery?

Risks from the surgery are somewhat immaterial, because if you keep your current habits it is likely that you eventually won't be able to use your hands whether the surgery is successful or not.
posted by grouse at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2007

I had DeQuervain's about a decade ago - a sudden 'snapping' pain on the wrist below the thumb, when moving my thumb or doing various things with my hand. I tried ice packs and a doctor recommended the cortisone shot. I'd read some bad things about this on the web, so I was leery and didn't get it (Dr. was pissed). My thumb eventually became pretty much immobilized. If I tried to moved it, it would snap (sudden release) and really hurt.

What finally worked for me was this. I just stopped using the hand completely and relaxed it and let it be limp as much as I could. At night I made sure I slept with it in a neutral position. In the evenings I soaked the hand and wrist in warm water. I'd read something about this improving blood flow (and that repeated icing can reduce blood flow which is bad for recovery). After about a week of this I was amazed and happy to find one night that the tendon had released and allowed some motion. I kept this up for several more weeks till things seemed back to normal. I was probably careful with it for a while. I don't remember how long. But I've had no troubles with it since. I continued as a software developer. Learning to keep my hands in a more neutral position and relaxing them more may have helped keep me out of trouble. My case may have been milder than yours though.
posted by DarkForest at 6:46 PM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you been using an ergonomic keyboard? Even if you go through with the surgery it's a good idea. I like the kinesis, and I've never used the datahand but it's crazy-looking enough that it might be worth something to try.
It seems like it would be a good idea to take a break from typing altogether for a month or two if you can swing that (might be a problem with work.) Definitely stop with the WOW for few months, even if you do the surgery. I know it sucks but, as JoddEHaa said, hands are kind of vital in life.

Seconding the part about sleeping with no pressure on your arms (and with splints on, probably.) Also, if you haven't gotten custom-made splints yet and are using the drug-store kind, you should change that.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 11:24 PM on March 14, 2007

Also, if such a thing as physical therapy for DeQuervain's exists, it seems like a good thing to try before surgery.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 11:30 PM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everybody.

I work in the game industry, so continuing to play games is pretty vital to my career. I just want to know if the surgery has any chance of jeopardizing that.
posted by liet at 3:25 PM on March 15, 2007

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