So, you know how week before last I thought, based on my visit to an orthopedist specializing in the hand and shoulder, that I had carpal tunnel syndrome rather than a pinched nerve in my neck after all? Well, today I visited a neurologist, who poked and prodded everything from my wrist to my upper back with electrodes (OUCH!).
Turns out there's no indication of impairment whatsoever where you'd expect to find it with CTS or its elbow joint cousins. If anything, I have remarkably healthy and fast-firing nerves. However, everywhere you'd expect someone with a C6 pinched nerve to have pain, numbness, or impairment, I've got them.
All I can say is thank God I didn't let that first doctor operate on my wrist when she was ready to schedule the surgery, since it wouldn't have helped a bit and would've at least temporarily weakened and limited the use of my arm to no purpose.
The neurologist said that happens a lot, unfortunately--C6 pinched nerves imitate CTS so well that they're frequently misdiagnosed, especially in people like me whom you'd EXPECT to have CTS, and good for me for paying attention to my shoulder symptoms and refusing any invasive treatments until I had a fuller picture of what was going on.
There is, of course, surgery for pinched nerves, but the neurologist doesn't think I'm at anywhere near that point yet. He recommends anti-inflammatories, PT, and continued careful attention to posture and ergonomics. Apparently from a medical perspective, my case isn't that bad--I just feel like it is because it's keeping me from writing as fast as I want to or tackling assorted household projects that would make our house look a bit less the fixer-upper work-in-progress. But I've got good strength and range of motion with little to no muscle atrophy, which I gather means surgery at this point would be overkill.
So. I figure nerves don't lie, so pinched nerve with no CTS it is. Which means exercises, naproxen/ibuprofen, and...patience. Sigh.