Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The other night when I posted I realized a couple things. For one, the pain med I'm on made me a little weird the first few days of taking it. Second is that I was a massive emotional mess and exhausted beyond belief. The good news is I've slept and ate for most of today and spent it snuggled with my bear. I don't like taking stuff for pain like that. Though with how I've been lately, I needed something. This whole thing has made me see just how high my pain tolerance is and how I do react to it when my mind is not actually feeling it. I wait on taking them until later in the day. I'm stubborn like that and still kind of hope it's not that bad but i know it is.

So what is going on with me? Thoracic outlet syndrome is when the scalene muscles in the neck compress the nerves and blood vessels that run to your arm. It can be triggered by physical trauma. Some times people have an extra rib by their collar bone that can cause it. Symptoms can mimic carpel tunnel. Usually, people don't know they have until much later down the road, around 5 years. The only proven treatment is to have the scalene muscles removed. They muscles are kind of like your appendix, it's one of those parts that we needed a long time ago, but over the course of evolution we've lost the need for it. 

When this all started, I'd get pain mostly in my pinky and ring finger. I'd start drawing and the pain would start. After 2 quarters of dealing with it I had carpel tunnel release surgery done, but was still dealing with pain. I just let it go and figured that be as good as it got. A few months later, I was in a car accident with my mom. While we weren't hurt, child safety restraint did it's job. I did still hit the window though and the seat belt really dug into my neck/should area.

So I just kind of dealt with it from there. I gave up doing illustration work except for very short stints of it. I use to hours working on a piece. When that stopped, I went to fabric work. It was easier to work with scissors and I like the textures and colors. All was mostly well until about a year ago, when I started doing a lot more coding work with my job. I've lived in a compression glove and a wrist brace for about 6 months now.

TOS is one of those things that doens't get diagnosed right away. People usually bounce from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis, which is what I did. Thankfully, instead of taking years between doctors and physical therapy and massage, I've been lucky enough to have a friend who'd been through this. She was telling me from the first day I came to work in a brace that she didn't think it was a recurrence of carpel tunnel. Had she not been so insistent and spoke up again after my ortho doctor, I would have given up.

Of course now, after the official diagnosis and having a 4 hour stent without pain, I can see just how much it's effected life. I've been drinking from lidded cups for about a year now. My hand writing has gone to shit. That part I didn't even notice until this week when I was struggling to write a card out of a patient legibly. I really can't hold writing utensils anymore... or chopsticks... or much of anything. When I think about it though, I really didn't start having serious problems until the last 6 months or so. Or at least didn't except I had a problem until about then. I have good friends and work with good doctors. 

I'm looking forward to burning my wrist braces though. Wearing them every day for the last 6 months sucks and they are ugly. Really ugly. Maybe I'll start a campaign to make more stylish braces in fun colors, but after everything settles and I can draw again.

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