Thursday, May 12, 2016

Out of the fog

A near-home view of Denver, the city where I was born
I think I've finally emerged from the strange fog I slipped into over the weekend — the fog of becoming dizzy whenever I stood up, feeling fuzzy-headed and tired, and falling asleep unintentionally during the day. In hindsight, a cold virus may have contributed to this condition, but I blamed altitude and the possibility that I pushed my body just a little too hard during our first week in Colorado. I'm not as strong here as I was in California. I may actually acclimate to the elevation before I finally accept that reality.

I was annoyed about dozing off on the floor while working on projects, so I decided to go for a run on Monday evening. Usually when I'm feeling low on power, an outdoor excursion boosts my spirits and my energy levels. Beat was running home from work, so I planned to meet him on the saddle of Green Mountain, about 3.5 miles away. Just getting there proved to be more than I manage — my legs were weak, I became dizzy, and had to sit down on the trail twice to clear my head, even though I was hiking at a relatively low-exertion pace. It was going to be a long hike back, so Beat agreed to run ahead and meet me at the trail junction with the car. While continuing to attempt a jogging pace, I must have looked fairly pathetic, because a fast-moving runner stopped and asked me if I needed company. No, I replied, my boyfriend was coming to rescue me. It was a most horrible run — the kind where you wonder if you're permanently broken.

Tuesday was my appointment with the hand specialist, who basically performed the same examinations that my doctor friends conducted in Nome, then referred me to a physical therapist for a nerve conduction test — just like the one I had in Nome seven weeks ago — one week from now. Any further appointments will likely sprawl out for weeks or even months.

Effectively, I'm in the same position I was in mid-March. I haven't made that many gains in the healing process since then. I do have better dexterity and strength in my hand, but a lot of that is just becoming more adept at working around my limitations — using my ring and pinkie fingers to carry the bulk of the workload, and strongly favoring my left hand, which has led to muscle atrophy in the right. I can't put pressure on my hand without pain, and every so often it sends out sharp electric shocks that cause me to fumble dishes or drop my camera.

To be honest, I'm really frustrated with this injury right now. I acknowledge that it's minor in the scheme of things, but the near-constant low-level pain, its impact on nearly everything I do, and the fact I can't ride bikes, are all beginning to grate on my mood. Beat and I had dinner with Joe Grant Thursday night, and he joined the chorus of long-distance bikepackers who assured me that nerve damage is normal, and one day, suddenly, it's going to feel a lot better. It may take months, but it will happen. Don't get surgery, he urged. I remain a skeptic. To be honest, if I could find a doctor willing to cut into my wrist tomorrow, I'd probably sign on. I also considered deciding that since this injury is never going to heal on it's own, I'm just going to ignore it so I can ride bikes again. But I doubt I could ignore it. I'm too much of a sissy when it comes to pain.

Beat running at Walker Ranch. Can you find him?
I realize this is a whiny blog post. Sometimes it feels good to get these things out, because it's easy to feel guilty about feeling bad when everything is otherwise fantastic. Beat and I love it here in Boulder so far. We are settling into new routines and relishing the novelty of gazing at stars from our bedroom window and having deer, red fox, and elk for neighbors. There are so many beautiful trails right out the door that I could be a full-time runner here and never miss biking, except for I do.

Today the head fog seemed sufficiently lifted so I ventured out, relishing the warm sun even though my skin was coated in a thick paste of sunscreen — because that's another thing it's going to take to survive at 7,000 feet. But somehow, the miles came effortlessly today. For the first time in Colorado, I didn't feel like there were lead weights strapped to my ankles or a sling tied around my neck. For the first time in Colorado, I almost felt like a runner. Of course, after looping around the trail, I failed the find the turnoff to my own street, and had to take the long way around. All the better.

12 comments:

  1. That's an interesting comment about bike packing. I've had similar problems in my feet from a long multi-day hike in hard boots and from back-to-back double century on a road bike a few years ago (that time it was my hands). The few weeks of numbness was alarming. Sorry you are well past the "few weeks" stage.

    Found Beat!

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  2. Found him!

    Sorry about your hand problems, but glad your head fog finally lifted. Run. Run like a kid!

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  3. Jill, glad you're improving. Leave the scalpel alone. I'm forever grateful they left my collar bone to do it's thing for 9 weeks. No knives, no screws. A good heal in the end. And you are years younger than me!

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  4. It's okay to whine sometimes! Glad the fog is lifting. I would expect your hand to have improved by now. I'll be curious what your latest nerve conduction shows compared to the one done in Nome. Hang in there. It will either get better by itself or it will get better with surgery. You will be biking again soon!

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  5. I know that pain, it's real. People equate numbness with no pain and that's just not so. Hang in there.

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  6. Get the surgery. It is a minor procedure, it will fix the problem and you won't risk long term problems. I waited too long and now have minor sensory loss in the lateral 3 fingers. No big deal, but I should have had surgery earlier. Anecdote only.

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  7. Barbara12:08 PM

    Myofascial release massage therapy is proven effective for carpal tunnel - one of the few conditions that actually has data supporting it. Barbara

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  8. Whenever I've had hand/wrist problems, I soak the offending hand in hot water, as hot as I can stand, and massage it deeply, especially where the trauma is. It hurts. Get the old blood out, get the new blood in, which is a problem for wrists where there is not a lot of blood flow. Blood heals all wounds. At age 65, this technique has helped me heal completely from countless insults to my ligaments and tendons.

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  9. Thanks everyone for the input. For the first 3 or so weeks I did daily wrist massage, 4 Aleve (as recommended by the Nome docs), CTS hand exercises, and near constant use of a wrist brace. I still wear the brace most of the time, but I admit to giving up the rest of these remedies when they seemed to have no effect (I still take 1-2 Aleve per day for the pain. 4 seemed excessive for an indefinite timeline.)

    All of the diagnostics I've had done point clearly to carpal tunnel syndrome, and unlike many other types of sports injuries, CTS isn't a great candidate for healing on its own. One study I read found that fewer than 50 percent of non-surgery subjects had lessened symptoms after *two years.* There are many instances of it getting worse. There are remedies that work for some, as Barbara pointed out. But most research I've done has been discouraging.

    I waited this long to seek treatment because it didn't make sense to start a process in California and start in all over again in Colorado. I've had no official diagnosis and there might be a miracle yet, but I'm keeping my mind/options open.

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  10. Although CTS is a minor injury, it's been surprising to realize all the things I can't do. I had to give up weight lifting as well as bike riding. I wanted to take a beginner climbing class here in Boulder, and I can't do that. Since we moved to a great place for plein air painting, I hoped to take up a long dormant art hobby, but I'm right handed. Currently my handwriting resembles a four-year-old — and I write even slower. So I'm guessing my drawing capabilities are equally compromised, and I can only hold a pen for 1-2 minutes before I get electric shocks of pain. Biking isn't the only reason I really want this fixed if it's possible. I've never had surgery for anything (except having my wisdom teeth extracted at 15) and am leery of it to say the least, but at this point I will welcome that road if a doctor tells me they think it's for the best.

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  11. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Wow. Nerve damage is not "normal." That person needs to reevaluate his life.

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  12. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Wow. Nerve damage is not "normal." That person needs to reevaluate his life.

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