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Neuropathy worse after surgery

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  • Neuropathy worse after surgery

    I have been dealing with ulnar and median nerve pain in both arms for about a year now. I recently had a decompression of both nerves in the right arm and so far the ulnar nerve pain is only mildly better and the median pain is significantly worse.

    Thus far, I have seen OTs, hand specialists, followed up with my neurosurgeon, seen an orthopedic specialist, none of which seem to have answers. Some changes to my daily routines are being made, such as quitting my job because I would drive for 6 hours a day and the pain was too much. Admittedly, it was only after two weeks post surgery that I returned to work full time but even since quiting entirely, the relief has been minimal.

    I've started therapy and used an H wave device which all but eliminated nerve pain in the elbow but did nothing for my hands.

    Even a light breeze is enough to trigger the pain in my elbow which then runs down into my palm and ring finger.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

  • #2
    You most likely have a condition called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (Type I) or causalgia (Type 2). It is poorly understood and medical interventions are not very effective, so patients are likely to be passed from one doctor and specialty to another, with frustrating results. I developed it in 1994, immediately after surgery to remove a ganglion cyst, and it drove me out of my mind - it felt like I was wearing a glove made of stinging bees up to my elbow, and I couldn't bear the slightest touch. It was so painful that I became chronically short-tempered and was in a state of near-panic. Acupuncture helped a little bit, but not for long. Like you, I went to physical therapists and occupational therapists, and even sought out a hand surgeon in another city. Nothing much helped, except time...lots of it. Years, in fact. It does get better, have faith in that - but CRPS is the result of nerve damage and nerves take quite awhile to settle down. Yours might not take as long as mine, but I want you to know that you have a recognized condition and it won't cause further damage on its own, it's just frightening because you can't escape it in the usual ways we deal with pain. I still have the original symptoms for which I had the surgery, but thankfully the CRPS slowly receded - yours will, too. Here's a good article about it:
    MS with cervical and thoracic cord lesions


    • #3
      I got mixed up between this thread and another one - decided to copy and paste my reply from the other thread to this one, in case the OP returns:

      The only thing that helped was time. I tried meds, acupuncture, TENS, frequency specific microcurrent, ice, heat, wrist braces, magnets, Feldenkreis movement therapy, just about everything - nothing helped for long. But oh, so gradually, the symptoms changed and I started having brief periods when I wasn't totally focused on my forearm, wrist and hand. The first thing that got better was the hypersensitivity. Pain was the last thing to go. But it took years, and I'm so sorry that I can't paint a more cheerful picture. The hand specialist I went to said that RSD (reflex sympathetivc dystrophy, as it was known then) is one of the hardest syndromes for doctors to understand and patients to cope with, and I can attest to that. He encouraged me to continue with acupuncture, which I did for awhile, but the results didn't last longer than a few hours. Maybe I didn't have a good acupuncturist.

      I can almost promise you that you'll get better with time, but I know what small comfort that is right now. Remember that you're not alone, this is a recognized syndrome that many people experience after surgery that was supposed to help them (which adds anger to the mix, and frustration because doctors don't know what to do about it). You'll find things on your own that help temporarily, like twisting the skin in certain ways or applying ice, and you might get some relief from "nerve glide" exercises that a hand therapist can show you (you can also find nerve glides on YouTube). But you'll need to keep adapting and trying different things. I didn't think I'd ever get better, but I did. And there is every reason to believe that you will, too. It just won't happen right away, or all at once.
      MS with cervical and thoracic cord lesions