Recovering from Carpal Tunnel Surgery

That is a boring title, but over the past 2 weeks I’ve Googled that exact phrase several times and found nothing helpful, so I thought I’d add to the paltry search results in case someone else is someday looking for the same thing (also, just to be upfront about the topic since about 90*% of the general population will never have to worry about it and therefore may find this incredibly boring).

*estimates vary; I just picked one

In short: I am amazed at how great my hand is feeling.  I am a little less than 2 weeks out from my carpal tunnel release surgery, and with the exception of a one-inch incision in my palm, a Band-Aid and a lingering ache in my hand, you’d never know it! (unless you looked at my Netflix history…)  The surgery itself was really quick – I checked in at the hospital at 5:45 for a 7 am surgery, and was home in bed by 10:00.

For three days following surgery, my hand was wrapped up like a boxer – lots of gauze and bandaging that was so bulky I could not wear long sleeves.  There was swelling and some pain but my doctor’s instructions, in addition to keeping it elevated and iced whenever possible, were to “move to tolerance,” (AKA “do whatever you want with your hand until it hurts too much”).  That is precisely what I did, and it became much easier once I removed the dressing and downgraded to a Band-Aid instead of 6 feet of gauze.  I also learned that every kind of movement affected my blood flow and therefore my hand, even if I weren’t using it (i.e., walking).

It seems, from the minimal results of my research, that there are two schools of thought regarding recovery from CT surgery.  I am sure this varies based upon a person’s individual circumstances, work activities, and medical history.  I talked to people in person, and read accounts online, of folks being home from work for 4 weeks or more, some with total rest prescribed for their hand.  On the other hand (ha!), others of us are instructed to move the affected hand as much as and as soon as possible.  I have to say this approach really worked for me.  I was doubtful when my doctor told me I’d be driving 4-5 days after surgery, but he was right! (though shifting from “park” to “drive” was challenging in the early days…)

The fascinating thing is how much improvement I would make on a day-to-day basis.  I had all these exciting right-hand milestones, like “brushing my hair!” “opening an envelope!” “using scissors!” and “writing!” The day following surgery I wrote a grocery list left-handed, but within days I was able to fill out my return-to-work forms with my right.   With driving, on Wednesday I was not able to comfortably turn the key in the ignition or make the shift from park with my right hand, but by Friday I was out running errands like every other two-handed person in the world.

Now that I am back to work with no more sutures and “no restrictions,” I am realizing how tired the muscles in my hand can get.  It definitely made sense to stay home for a week though I was initially skeptical about really needing that much time off.  Although my job primarily involves sitting in an office talking to people, I sorely underestimated the amount of typing and writing that I do (as well as the amount I assumed I was “practicing” these activities while off work).  On my first day back, by 5pm I could hardly grip a pen.  But like every other hand-related activity, I am seeing big improvements each day.  Plus, I will soon only need my hand for vacationing when Spring Break arrives, so the timing is nice.

My next assignment from the doctor is to get some Play-Dough so I can work on my strength.  My next assignment for myself is to be able to do yoga!  I can handle some running and walking and gentle stretching, but weight-bearing on the incision in my hand, even with a padded brace, is still very uncomfortable.   I’ve almost gone to a few yoga classes, but the thought of Downward Dog stops me every time!   My body misses the stretch very much, so I am hoping to attend a restorative class this week for some movement without the flow and inversions.

Also — and perhaps most important — no carpal tunnel symptoms whatsoever!  All in all, I’m glad I did this, and I am happy it happened at a time of year when the weather was so insufferable that I did not mind being housebound for several days.  Now if I can just get my Downward Dog back, I’ll know I am really recovered!

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MYOS! (Make Your Own Sofritas!)

A few weeks ago, ads for Chipotle’s new tofu option, Sofritas, were all over the place.  And although I am a big fan of tofu, the crowds on the day that you could get a free one were not worth the trouble.  So, I haven’t tasted the Chipotle Sofritas (although someone I know who did said it “tastes like Chiptole,” so, okay).  And I’m honestly not sure I will, after this article made a pretty good case for avoiding an unreasonably high price for tofu (seriously, I don’t know who their supplier is but I have never paid more than $4 for 16 ounces, and that’s when I’m buying the fancy organic locally-made kind.  A block at Trader Joe’s will run you $1.99).  However, what I DID get out of it was a great idea: to make my own!

tofu tacos2

Objects in photo were smaller than they appear.

This was an incredibly easy, tasty, and cheap meal to make!  The night before, I cooked 1/2 cup of dry lentils with some cumin.  On the day I made these tacos, I set a 16 ounce block of tofu aside underneath a heavy pot (to squeeze out excess water) and then mashed it with a fork.  I heated a little olive oil in a pan, added the tofu, lentils, some taco seasoning* and an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce (the kind that is just plain tomatoes; check the label or you may end up with accidental Italian flair).

This took all of 15 minutes (add 25 minutes if you didn’t cook the lentils the night before; these were my own addition though and not necessary) and although I didn’t calculate it exactly, I can’t imagine that the total cost of everything even added up to what you’d pay at Chipotle if you added guacamole!  Of course there will always be a time and place for convenience foods, but if you have an interest in Mexican-flavored tofu and a few minutes to spare, it’s not tough to recreate!

For 8 servings on white corn tortillas, topped with guacamole, salsa, and some cheddar cheese (which I always put underneath everything else so it melts):

tofu tacos_infojpgTwo of these for dinner was a very decent source of protein, not too heavy on the carbs and if the fat bothers you, leave off the guacamole (although, remember: healthy fats!).  Also, I threw some broccoli slaw on top just because we had it, and it added a very nice crunch to an otherwise mushy dinner (and I forgot to include in the nutrition info but I imagine it was negligible).

*One interesting thing I have learned lately is that a lot of taco seasoning packets include MSG (monosodium glutamate)  I have some vague idea of MSG being bad, but didn’t really know why… and in writing this, and visiting Wikipedia, I learned that “international and national bodies governing food additives currently consider MSG safe for human consumption as a flavor enhancer,” and that some attribute anti-MSG sentiment to racism.  Wow.  Now, I am just a woman who photographed some tacos, I did not mean to stumble into a political food debate… but it certainly did lead to an interesting afternoon of internet browsing.  Whatever side you’re on — I can report that the packets sold at Trader Joe’s are both satisfyingly spicy and free of MSG.  Also, no, this is not a paid endorsement from Trader Joe’s.


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A note re: expectations

Dear Medical Person that I Encountered Recently, who asked how it is possible that “they got the insulin pump inside” of me if I have never had surgery before; and who, in an effort to relate, mentioned that your friend “is dealing with the same thing,” and how after being told to lose 50 pounds and being “put on pills,” she is now taking insulin, just like me!:


I don’t like to read rants, and for that reason I try pretty hard not to write them.  But who doesn’t like a colorful bar graph?

Below is a visual interpretation about what I think various people need to know about Type 1 Diabetes.  I decided to call it “How Much I Expect People to Know About Type 1 Diabetes.”

how much

1) ME.  As you can see, the onus of responsibility falls on me.  No one needs to be more of an expert on my diabetes – and my body – than me!  I’ll handle the day-to-day maintenance, the highs, the lows, and the consequences of the doughnut I just ate.

2) MY HUSBAND.  Maybe it sucks for him, but the person who’s decided to share my life and home does require a certain level of knowledge.  He does not need to understand my insulin doses in detail, but needs to know what it means when I say, “$%#&! 59?! I just ate dinner!” and that I am dead serious when I say “please bring me one spoon of peanut butter, don’t let me eat the whole jar!” when my blood sugar is low.  He knows what “can you bring me my blood test thingie?” means.  As such, he deserves a warning from me when I decide to let my insulin pump go to its maximum 80 hour limit and will probably sleep through the “time’s up!” alarm (and I, in turn, deserve the firm shove awake at 4 am when this happens).

3) T1D-RELATED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS.  You are my endocrinologist/dietician/diabetes educator, and I and my insurance company are paying you for your expertise and education.  Thank you for understanding that my blood sugar can’t always be 80 and that it’s not because I was an obese kid.  But thanks also for totally dazzling me with your ability to calculate complicated dosage conversions and your fluency in Diabetic Jargon.  Also, the free samples are really nice.

4) CLOSE FRIENDS/FAMILY.  If we’ve ever lived together, or vacationed together, I need you to have some modicum of understanding about why I have to haul all this extra crap with me, why I pull what looks like a PDA from 2001 out of my purse every time we eat, and why I don’t drink regular Coke.  In exchange, I will let you test your blood sugar on my meter after you drink that 20-ounce cappuccino from the gas station and get curious.

5) OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONALS.  See the introductory paragraph, jerk*.  You went to a lot of school (I know this because it is on your name badge).  You do things like administer IVs and put in joint replacements and cast broken bones.  I should be able to reasonably expect you to understand that an insulin pump is outside my body, and that they do not make a pill to treat my kind of diabetes.  You not knowing those things but also having access to a prescription pad is scary.

*(sorry, dangerously close to rant territory there!)

6) OTHER FRIENDS/ACQUAINTANCES/COWORKERS.  Honestly, all I care about is you not giving me a hard time for carrying my purse to meetings, not hassling me about the doughnut this morning, and not batting an eye when a faint “beep” comes from my abdomen at lunch.  We are friends and listen to each other and respect each other, and virtually never need to discuss diabetes, which is totally fine!

7) EVERYONE ELSE.  You don’t need to know anything about diabetes, just like I don’t really need to know anything about asthma, computer programming, shellfish, or Vine.  I’m a bit of an outlier with this attitude, but see #s 1-4 above.  I’ve got this!  And as long as you haven’t graduated medical school or make jokes about diseases, I promise I also won’t have expectations about your knowledge or make offensive jokes about shrimp and we will get along swimmingly.

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