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Alison’s story: ‘Really good experience’ with carpal tunnel release

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For Alison Driscoll, pain and pregnancy went hand in hand.

She endured pain in her hands and arms for years. But the pain, radiating from her elbows to her fingertips, intensified when she became pregnant.

“The elbow pain … was a crampy … like, burning, not pleasant feeling,” Driscoll says. “It would go down to the tips of my fingers. During pregnancy, I had two fingers that were for sure numb all the time. You know when your hands fall asleep and they feel weird? That’s what every day was.”

The discomfort continued even as Driscoll slept. On many nights, the numbness in her hands woke her.

Driscoll’s nurse practitioner at Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County believed she was experiencing pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome.

“The doctor explained it to me that when you’re pregnant, your body retains more fluids,” Driscoll says. “So there’s a lot of extra fluid pressing on everything. She said it could’ve been the fluid pressing and that’s what was causing it.”

Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop during pregnancy when the median nerve, located between the forearm and the palm of the hand, becomes compressed because of swelling. Symptoms include pain, numbness and restricted movement in the hands and fingers.

However, even after Driscoll gave birth to her son, her arm pain and numbness continued. She underwent a carpal tunnel assessment, also at Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County.

The results indicated carpal tunnel syndrome.

Driscoll was referred to Dr. Craig L. Olson, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic in Manitowoc. He affirmed the diagnosis.

After considering treatment options, Driscoll opted to have an in-office carpal tunnel release procedure on her right hand.

Carpal tunnel surgery is traditionally performed one of two ways: Open and endoscopic. Open surgery involves an incision from the wrist to the palm over the carpal tunnel to correct the problematic ligament and free the median nerve. In endoscopic surgery, a small incision is made in the hand or wrist and an endoscope – a tiny camera – is used to see inside the carpal tunnel, helping the surgeon correct the troublesome ligament.

Surgery was an easy decision for Driscoll. She was tired of the elbow pain and the numbness in her hand.

“After (Dr. Olson) said that the numbness will go away, it was one of those things where I was like I’m going to do that.”

Although admittedly “freaked out” that she’d remain awake during the procedure, Driscoll says it was “a really good experience.”

After Olson explained how the procedure would unfold, Driscoll says he and his staff used humor to help her relax.

“The nurse that I had was really great about calming my nerves,” she says. “(Dr. Olson) was telling jokes to try to make the mood light because I’m pretty sure he could read that I was nervous. Once it was happening, it was very quick and I appreciated that.”

It was so quick that a little over an hour later, Driscoll and her husband were shopping.

She left the in-office procedure with a simple bandage over the surgery site and little to no pain.

Since her carpal tunnel release procedure, Driscoll no longer has elbow pain. Once in a while, she experiences slight numbness in her hand. But “it takes a lot for it to actually fall asleep or go numb,” she says.

Driscoll says she will “definitely go back” to see Olson when she’s ready to have a similar procedure on her left hand.

Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Author: Ashley Scott