Today I went all the way to Salisbury hospital for a nerve conduction study. The leaflet that came with my appointment letter described the process as needles being inserted into muscles and having electrical currents passed through them. I was a bit nervous about this.
However, when I actually got into my appointment, it was nowhere near as bad as that. No needles went in, I just had electrodes stuck to different parts of both hands and arms. They needed to do the hand I wasn’t having nerve problems in as a comparison.
Getting zapped is certainly very unpleasant, it’s kind of sharp enough to feel like being stabbed down a cross-section of your arm, and it’s a little bit of a burning feeling. But I was happy with the experience as I got a lot of answers. Just a bit weird having my lower arm flap about involuntarily. It would be nice if all testing could be so easy.
So, as my GP suspected, my ulnar nerve has become trapped behind a bone when it flexed too much (hello connective tissue disease). Apparently it may require surgery to get it out, which is a bit spooky but we’re not sure yet.
As well as that, it turns out I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I would have had no idea if I hadn’t gone in for this test about a totally different nerve. I’m guessing any discomfort it causes is covered up by normal hand bone pain.
I used to know somebody with it who just wore a brace every now and then, but I don’t really know much about it. In fact as a kid I thought it was “carpet tunnel.” As in, those rolls of carpets at carpet shops. I thought it was related to that!
Apparently it’s the median nerve being compressed by bones and ligaments on the palm side of the hand. And I was totally oblivious about it!
The ulnar nerve is by far causing me the most grief.
If you skip to about 4:07 in this video, you see the kind of surgery that might be involved. It’s a bit squicky though 😷.
In the meantime I’m advised to keep my elbow as straight as possible to avoid trauma on the nerve. A problem was immediately apparent though; my arms naturally rest at 90 degrees on my wheelchair arms, especially to control the joystick. So if I kept my arm straight I would be overshooting my joystick and not going anywhere.
I guess I’ll have to have surgery if they suggest it rather than letting my hand waste away, but surgery is terrifying. We’ll see what happens.