So, last week I saw an orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion on my shoulder and wrist/hand issues. She had my neck and shoulder x-rayed and put me through an array of strength and range of motion tests. (Which, incidentally, had the effect of making my symptoms in both areas the worst they've been since March or so. THANKS, Doc!)
I was at least 90% certain that the neck x-ray would show a pinched nerve as the root of all my problems. However, my neck looks...normal. Same for my shoulder. And it turns out the first doctor was right after all. I do have carpal tunnel syndrome, and a bit of ulnar tunnel syndrome as well. Sigh.
That said, this doctor was a lot more willing to believe me that my shoulder is an issue as well, and one somehow connected to what's going on further down the arm, even if there isn't an obvious reason. My left trapezius muscle is extremely tight, hence my ongoing pain, and the PT I've done with a focus on my shoulder and neck HAS seemed to help my wrist/hand symptoms.
So the next step is for me to visit a neurologist next week, who will do nerve studies focusing on the entire affected area. After that, back to the orthopedist to settle on a treatment plan.
We'll see what happens, but my latest theory is that I have two separate injuries, both sustained within a week of each other in November, neither of which will heal fully because they're part of a linked neuro-musculo-skeletal system and tend to trigger each other. I think the two tunnel syndromes come from pushing myself to do NaNoWriMo on a desk with poor ergonomics. And I think I strained my trapezius muscle pretty badly while carrying my sleeping daughter (age 6 at the time, and almost 50 lbs), who lolled off my shoulder, forcing me to jerk to not drop her.
But I could be wrong. I thought the x-rays were going to show an obvious pinched nerve in my neck, after all. On the one hand I'm frustrated, because I was hoping for a clear, straightforward problem with an equally clear solution. However, I'm glad to at last have a doctor who's paying attention to my whole range of symptoms.
And between longhand and Dragon Dictate, I've figured out how to move forward with my writing in the meantime. It's slower than just pounding out a draft at the keyboard would be, but I'm still not without hope that by the end of 2011 I'll have a release or two scheduled for 2012.