Thursday, September 09, 2010

Noooooooooooooo!

First of all, please imagine my "Nooooo" in that slowed-down, cinematic way -- like when, in a movie, something precious is falling and someone dives to catch it, all in slow motion, shouting in that low, distorted voice. Thank you. That will be sufficiently dramatic.

I saw my doctor this morning and told him that for the last three or four days I've woken up with stiff, numb hands, and that some swelling and stiffness persists throughout the day. He said this is (pregnancy-related) carpal tunnel syndrome, and that to keep it from getting worse, I need to stop doing anything repetitive with my hands -- like typing and knitting.

"No knitting," said Dr. K. "You need to stop knitting."

Gulp.

Now, I have to admit that normally, I might not actually stop knitting. I might tell my doctor I will stop knitting, and then keep knitting. But he said I should stop knitting and typing. And there's no way I can stop typing, unless my supervisor will accept a five-hour thesis on tape. Stopping typing is simply out of the question, which means I'm going to have to sacrifice knitting in the interests of getting my work done.

It had occurred to me at that at some point in this pregnancy, something might go wrong with my health that would lead to bed rest. I figured that would be bad, but I could still have my laptop and knit. But "don't use your hands"? I hadn't anticipated this one, and I think it's worse -- for me, anyway. (It's funny -- I've never thought of myself as a person who works with her hands, but I am. Bed rest would be devastating for an athlete, or a bike courier, or the mother of a toddler, but "don't use your hands" is worse for someone who spends most of her time sitting and typing and reading and making stuff.) (And I know this carpal tunnel thing is quite common in pregnancy, and the doctor said if I was at 37 weeks it wouldn't really matter. But since I'm only at 27 weeks, there's plenty of time for it to get a lot worse. The word "splints" was mentioned.)

So I guess you'll be seeing more sewing around here...

26 comments:

J Strizzy said...

Aw, man, that sucks. I had to stop knitting around 25 weeks, not because my doctor said to but because it just hurt too much. I found that wearing wrist braces while I slept helped, at least up to a point.

AmyPinSeattle said...

Try wearing splints on your wrists when you go to bed! Get them from the drugstore.

It's amazing what we do to our fingers/hands/wrists in our sleep.

My mother got her CT under control for over 5 years by doing this for about 3 months! Eventually she and my brother had to have the surgery, but that was after YEARS of abuse!

She said it wasn't too bad after the first few nights.

charmaine said...

Devastating! Oh, I'm so sorry. No knitting... geesh.

Melanie said...

Oooh, how horrible for you. You may as well give it up because after the baby arrives you won't have time for knitting anyway until he/she is away at university :)

Anonymous said...

As an ergonomist, I can tell you that the majority of "carpal tunnel syndrome"-type symptoms are actually referred neck pain. (Referred pain is pain felt somewhere further down the line (nerve) than the source of the injury - like when you bump your elbow and your hand tingles.)

As a result, only about 1/3 of CTS surgeries are successful at reducing the symptoms. The simple (not easy) solution is to correct your posture so that your head is positioned above your shoulders and not jutting forward; take frequent breaks from sitting tasks; and don't rest your wrist on any surface while keyboarding (hint: wrist rests are for when you're resting/thinking, not typing). Oh, and don't rest your elbows or forearms on armrests while knitting.

My best recommendation is to find a physiotherapist to assess your posture(s) (e.g. sitting, keyboarding, knitting, standing, standing at a counter or sink, etc. as they can create a cumulative effect) and develop strategies to relieve your pain and develop the muscles needed to maintain it.

The sooner you interrupt it, the easier it is to keep it from becoming a long term/permanent part of you life. Best wishes.
J

Donna said...

Yikes! Please don't consider this a nosy piece of advice, but if I were in your situation, I'd go check out New York Times Technology writer David Pogue's opinion of text to speech software Dragon Naturally Speaking. I know he's used it a lot, and that each new version has made significant improvements; maybe that would give you a way to strike a balance between a little less typing and a little more knitting.

Dani Pace said...

I had the same thing happen with my last pregnancy and it didn't go away like some other peoples have. I am now seeing a chiropractor and it is doing wonders, chiropractic care is safe when you are pregnant. I highly recommend it and they haven't told me not to knit. You should check it out.

Steph said...

GASP! That's horrible!

I have a pinched nerve in my neck that got worse during my pregnancy due to all the fluid and swelling in my hands and feet. I would lie in bed each morning and do the exercises my physiotherapist prescribed to help with the swelling. Still, by the end of my pregnancy and for the first month of the Mogrunt's life, my thumb, forefinger and middle finger were tingling with pins and needles all the time. It eventually went away, but when I was off work for a month before the boy was born, I wasn't able to knit very much. That was truly Suckfestian.

Albany of the West said...

Had to delurk :)

First, congrats on the pregnancy! I just had my son 4 months ago and had the same problem. I have had carpal tunnel problems for over 15 years but they got worse after he was born, to the point where I almost dropped him a few times bc I lost feeling in my hands over night. I agree with the posters who have suggested wearing wrist splints and getting your neck assessed. You also might like to keep a pair of gauntlets on if you can stand the warmth of them as they will help keep your wrists warm and help with keeping the ligaments loose. The thing that made a HUGE difference for my was getting an amber bracelet - it took about 36 hours of wearing it full time but since then, the pain is gone, I never did actually drop the kid (!) and I am able to knit without pain. I got mine from Inspired by Finn and they are even having a sale now, I think they are around $10?

Good luck and I hope you start feeling better soon and ITA that bed rest (which I almost was put on) would have been a zillion times better than not being able to knit ;)

J. said...

I had the same problem near the end of both my pregnancies. It was vry frustrating not to be able to pick up the needles and sooth myself with a little knitting. Fortunately, shortly after each of my daughters was born, my wrists returned to normal and so did my knitting.

Good luck with your typing and congratulations!

Seanna Lea said...

I'm with Donna. I've heard some wonderful things about Naturally Speaking from both David Pogue's reviews and one of my friends who was diagnosed with carpal tunnel a few years back. He actually has the wireless hands free mouse at his job (and another one at home), so he can just move his head to select items.

Dr. Steph said...

I had it for my first pregnancy. I found a splint brace at night made a big difference (I was writing my comps at the time so I know your pain!).

Have you considered dictation software like Dragon speak something or other. It's used for people with visual disabilities and hand problems like yours. It might help things out.

I will also say that mine got better until I started this crazy office job. This year it's starting to act up again. But only with typing/mousing.

KPiep said...

I'm so sorry! I had it during my pregnancies, too (started at 4 months with first, and ran through entire second). My husband used to laugh because I would carry my knitting bag around the house sadly...even though I couldn't knit a darn thing.

The good news is that it does go away shortly after baby arrives.

In the meantime...I didn't find splints to be helpful at all BUT have found that if I used pillows strategically at night than it helped a great deal. I'm a tummy sleeper, so I would prop a pillow under the shoulder of the hand that had the most problems.

Also be carefuul with your back and shoulders....a lot of carpel tunnel stuff actually can start as tightness up there.

Good luck!

regina said...

So sorry, A! I had carpal tunnel through both of my pregnancies, and while my symptoms largely disappeared after the kids were born, I still have occasional flare-ups. I wear wrist braces to bed (the kind with the spoon-shaped metal piece in them), and it helps immensely. But rest assured that in all likelihood, once your interest in knitting returns (post-baby), you should be able to resume doing it. I hope all else is well!

Minty Fresh said...

A coworker of mine got carpal tunnel while she was writing her dissertation. She was not able to type due to the intense pain she was suffering. With a note from her doctor, she was able to work with her adviser to put her writing on hold. She did continue to research and did voice record her thoughts and even hired someone to type from her recordings. She got it done on schedule and I have faith you will be able to do the same! Listen to your body and persevere!

Elizabeth said...

First of all, this isn't as bad as it sounds. I had carpal tunnel and I've managed it for years now--and I write (read: type) all day long and knit at night. It could also be the fact that you are pregnant that your joints are aggravated--you know that they loosen up toward the end of pregnancy so you can "open" up for the baby to arrive. But here is what I did that was a game changer: go see an occupational therapist who only specializes in hand therapy. They will fix you up like nobody else AND will teach you all the tricks of the trade to keep the problems at bay.

Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said...

Target usually had an older but still quite good version of the Dragon software on sale for about 30 to 40 dollars. The latest version is much more expensive.

I use it so I can knit while writing stories. After the part where you teach it and you learn the prompts to is quite easy to use.

I have a bit of wrist trouble myself. Sit right and get your rest.

Hugs to you and the little one, Lady Euphoria

jennifer.auroradesign said...

I'll admit right off the bat that I didn't read the other comments so I might be duplicating what others have said...

I had a repetitive motion disorder in my wrist when I was pregnant and nursing. I wore splints, had cortisone shots, etc. The doctor wanted me to have surgery. Being an artist, I opted to find a new doctor instead. I worked with a physiatrist who developed a physical therapy routine for me involving heat, ice packs and ice baths, light weight lifting (like 2 lbs max) and most beneficial to me...stretching. Simply stretching my hands every time they ached--or anytime I thought about it--made my life so much easier. Talking lots of breaks, getting a desk, a chair and a mouse that is ergonomically correct helped to. However, the single best change is stretching. Maybe it can help. Giving up knitting is not a good option!

JustApril said...

Massage Therapy can help keep those symptoms under control, too. You may need to do some research into who is qualified to do it, but it can help some.

Ann-Marie said...

I had the same thing, but mine showed up when my daughter was a newborn. I had testing done and some nerve damage. I agree with wearing the splints to bed--they work very well. I still get numbness in my hands if I am knitting/spinning too much and my splint makes it bearable.
:)

Tish said...

When that happened to me in the middle of a pregnancy, my doctor's comment was "you're probably sleeping stupid". (?!) He meant that I was sleeping with my hands/wrists curled (usually under my chin or my pillow) and gave me a wrist brace to keep my wrists straight. It really helped. He didn't know about the knitting but he told me to lay off the Tetris.

Angela said...

Yes, that is an oh so appropriate title for that post. That sucks big time. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't use my hands. I an a technical writer, so I spend 8 hours a day minumum at the computer and the rest of the time I am madly drawing or knitting. To the point that I can no longer simply watch TV, I have to have something else to do. And I seriously can't think of anything else to do! Boggle? Cribbage? At least you can still cuddle the soft skeins of yarn, if you are anything like me, that is.

Heidi said...

North American babies need quilts! You could look at it as training for when the baby is there and you won't get to knit much anyway...

Take care!!

Vicki Knitorious said...

Ouch. It's been 25 years and I still remember that pain! Lots of good advice here. I made the mistake of "immobilizing" my wrist rather than "bracing" -- cinching it WAY too tight, for a while, and making things worse! Later in the pregnancy, I'd wake in the middle of the night from the increasing pain and found relief by aligning my arm down the length of my body -- there was a "sweet spot" where the pain would disappear (this is very much related to neck/shoulder/back issues). I never stopped knitting, either; though I could only manage a couple of rows on a baby sweater some days. It counted. All the best to you!!

alisonc said...

One more vote for wrist splints at night. It also keeps you from sleeping with your arms in a weird position that might exacerbate the pain.

Wollgut said...

Oh! Well! I had followed your blog before you took a break, and then I got really really busy and took a break from blogging myself. Now that I returned and read your last six or seven posts (welcome back!!!) at once I'm amazed at the similarities: (1) my blogging break was dissertation-writing induced (I defend in November--eeeek!!!); (2) I'm 24 weeks pregnant; and (3) I got carpal tunnel syndrome and can neither knit nor write much.

Hurrah! for dissertation-completion stages and pregnancies--even at the cost of CTS.