It is almost two months since my cubital tunnel surgery, and while there is still time for improvement, I have had mixed results.
My right hand is improving. I have better grip strength, smoother movement through all fingers, and I can use the hand for longer before fatiguing out. I still drop things regularly, so I still need to be mindful and focus on making sure I really do have something gripped properly. I have some numbness and pins and needles still, but they aren’t constant and there is minimal nerve pain.
Unfortunately, my left hasn’t experienced much, if any, improvement. I still have pins and needles and a lot of numbness in that hand and arm. There is sharp pain from the hand to elbow, depending on how I move my arm, and there are areas of skin that feel like I have been cut. The outside of my hand, down the little finger side hurts constantly, and at times I can’t believe it hasn’t been sliced open. It feels exactly like that, and I check my hand for blood regularly. Both hands get fatigued very quickly, but my left only works for a few minutes, and then the fingers are pretty much dead. I can’t grip things well, and my hand function is mostly just my thumb and forefinger, a pincer grip. Which I’m thankful for, but beyond that my hand functions largely as an object I can prop other things against, or use as counter force. Blunt instrument.
My physiotherapist measured my grip strength using a dynamometer, which is a good indicator of hand function. I squeezed as hard as I possibly could. My right hand measured 19 kg of pressure, and my left 11. There is a chart that rank’s men’s and women’s grip strength, with the rankings of ‘Excellent’, ‘Very Good’, ‘Above Average’, ‘Average’, ‘Below Average’, ‘Poor’ and ‘Very Poor’. On the charts, less than 20 is considered ‘Very Poor’.
So my ‘good’ hand is considered ‘Very poor’. Add in that my right is my dominant hand, and that’s even worse, because your dominant hand is usually stronger. My left hand, at 11 is beyond ‘Very Poor’.
So that’s not great news. My surgeon said that I would see most improvement within the first month, then things would slow down. She said by three months what I have is what I have. So I have another month to go. And I have seen websites say that gains can still be made up to six months out from surgery, so maybe more is possible.
Realistically, however, I’m not likely to get much more improvement. I’m not being pessimistic. I have to be realistic. I will keep doing my physiotherapy exercises and hope for the best.
I am still glad I had the surgery and I went in with my eyes open. Any improvement is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and apart from my anxiety pre-surgery, it was a very simple surgery and an easy recovery.
The main benefit of the surgery is that I shouldn’t lose any more function. My surgeon said from the outset that I had a very severe case, and sometimes nerves don’t recover. Once the nerve has died, and the muscle has wasted too far, it isn’t possible to recover full use of the hand.
Which means I will never play guitar again. I tried the other day. I can play for maybe a minute, and then my hand stops working. As in I can’t move my last two fingers at all anymore. They are literally paralysed. It’s not a pleasant thing. It’s not like my arthritis, where I can keep using my hand until I can stand the pain no more. Nerve death means my fingers are completely useless.
But I am grateful that I am right handed, and my right hand lasts longer. It will always be much weaker than normal. I will never have full function, or even good function. But I hope it will keep on improving, and I will continue using it as much as possible (as advised by my surgeon). And following my physiotherapists advice.
Concerning is that the base of both thumbs ache constantly, and I have some pins and needles in my finger and thumb. I’m worried about Carpel Tunnel, because if I lose that function as well, my hands will be completely useless. As usual, no one is listening to me about that, because my nerve conduction studies were normal.
Yes, but I did have Cubital Tunnel and the studies were normal.
They just refuse to understand,
I am hoping that the pain and tingles in my thumb and forefinger are just because these fingers now have to compensate for the lost function in the other fingers. If I start getting constant pain there, I will return to my surgeon for her assessment. She’s currently the only doctor who listens to me.