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Name: Marsha Brofka-Berends
Location: US

Marsha knits . . . and reads and cooks and edits and gardens and hikes and thinks and eats and photographs and sings and writes and travels and plans and hopes and . . .

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oh, the things we take for granted

A few of my friends started 2007 by going on self-imposed yarn diets. "No more yarn purchases until my obscenely huge stash is gone!" they declared. (For some reason I cannot comprehend, though, "except for sock yarn" is often a corollary to these vows of yarn poverty. I guess I'm not enough of a sock knitter--yet--to obsess over sock yarn in this manner.)

I began 2007 thinking I would get a head start on my holiday knitting (yeah, it hasn't happened yet) and F lots of UFOs. I've actually made some decent progress on some UFOs (more on that another time), but as of this morning my knitting has been derailed for a while. Behold my new fashion accessory: a splint.

I've been having intermittent discomfort in my left wrist, right around where the base of the thumb meets it, since last fall. It kept sort-of going away, so I didn't worry about much. Last week, though, a few days of "Oh my dog, it hurts when I just think about moving it" pain prompted me to call my doctor, who referred me to a local hand center, where--you guessed it--they specialize in hand and wrist stuff.

My appointment was this morning, and the doctor (who I think really does know his stuff but has the most brusque, rushed bedside manner I've seen in a long time) quickly diagnosed tendonitis. Specifically, I have DeQuervain's tenosynovitis, and in my case (in most, actually) it is caused by picking up a baby in a way that puts strain on the wrist. There are three possible treatments for this: a splint, a steroid infection at the site, and the surgery. I'm far from needed surgery for this (whew!), and I decided to give the splint a try for a month before getting a shot.

So I spent an hour in the physical therapy lab down the hall, where they custom-made a split for me out of some really neat heat-sensitive plastic that they molded into shape. (I have to keep it away from heat--including hot water and car dashboards on summer days--or else it could lose its shape.) It sort of looks like I have a Phantom of the Opera mask wrapped around my thumb and covering my palm and forearm.

I also got all sorts of instructions in the Care and Feeding of the Splint and lots of suggestions for how to stop hurting myself (e.g., pick up the baby in different ways). Sadly, these also included a very strong recommendation against knitting (which is, after all, a repetitive motion involving the hands)--at least for a couple of weeks. If all goes well, I should be okay within a month. If not, well, then I call the doctor and make an appointment for an injection.

In the few hours since I've been wearing this thing, I've been quite astonished by how much it limits my mobility. (I wonder if, over the past few months, I've been constantly aggravating the tendon, even when it didn't hurt and I was trying to move my wrist in other ways.) Typing up this post, for example, is taking forever. And trying to slice bananas for Sylvia's lunch today was a trip: I had to hold the knife in my right hand (because the Phantom prevents me from holding it in my left), and I swear it looked like I was doing some drunken slicing or something. Yes, I am that left-dominant. The only thing I can do well with my right hand is use a pair of regular scissors. Before I left the house this morning, I tried brushing my teeth with my right hand (because my left was hurting) and I nearly put my eye out with the toothbrush.

Should be an interesting next few weeks...


Linnet said...

I'm so sorry to hear that, Marsha. I had lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) years ago, from a data entry job. My elbow wasn't immobilized, but they did gave me a protective thingy (technical term) to wear, both to protect it and so that I'd notice when I was using it incorrectly. It's amazing how you abuse your body without noticing, isn't it? I hope the splint works, and you feel better soon.

Friday, February 23, 2007 3:55:00 AM  
arianna said...

Oh, no! I am so sorry to hear that you can't knit. :( But I am glad that you are doing something to take care of it, and yourself. Too many times we (especially women) will continue to overlook something if it's not impossible to do so. I do hope right-handed things get easier for you -- I feel your pain! I do most things left-handed & it would just kill me to have to conform to that stupid right-handed world. :(

In any case, I do the splint does the trick & that you are your old self again within a month! And until then, watch out for those toothbrushes, they can be deadly! ;)

Friday, February 23, 2007 10:50:00 AM  
Marsha Brofka-Berends said...

Thanks for the kind words! My knitting group met last night, and I found that another member had the same thing a few years ago--and with a splint and mindfulness of her movements, it went away pretty quickly. So I'm feeling pretty optimistic!

Friday, February 23, 2007 3:07:00 PM  
Slaax Gumbo said...

I hope your wrist is getting better. My right hand keeps going numb, and I suspect it has to do with computer mice.

Friday, March 02, 2007 10:56:00 PM  
Marsha Brofka-Berends said...

Frank, that doesn't sound good. Get thee to a doctor! Seriously--could be the beginning of something nasty that, left untreated, might require surgery.

Saturday, March 03, 2007 2:31:00 PM  

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