The doctor, who to describe as disinterested would be an understatement, explained that the problem was not carpal tunnel, but very similar. There are two main nerves that run down the arms, the Median nerve, which controls the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half the ring finger, and the Ulnar nerve, which controls the pinky finger and half the ring finger. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the Median Nerve is compressed around the wrist. The Ulnar nerve can be compressed too, but it occurs at the elbow, sometimes called tennis elbow. The elbow? That was my problem the whole time? And this guy happened to be the foremost elbow surgeon in Rhode Island. Before he settled on a diagnosis, he wanted me to get a nerve test done.
The nerve test was painless and yet unpleasant enough that pain might have been preferable. They stuck little sticky electrodes on the tips of my fingers and halfway up my upper arm. The test, to me, seemed basically like tasering me up and down my arm and recording the velocity of the pulse as it travels down. They found that there was indeed compression at the elbow. The velocity of the pulse down my right arm was half what it should be and the left was almost as bad. I had never noticed because I’m very much right handed. The doctor who administered the test was very concerned. He said I am very young to be having this problem.
The orthopedic surgeon said the only permanent solution was surgery, but he wanted to be conservative and wait. I asked if he would recommend physical therapy or acupuncture and he said they wouldn’t help. He gave me some anti-inflamatory pills to take every day, and two arms braces. The first was called, much to the amusement of my mother and I, a Cock-Up brace and it actually went on the wrist. The second, looked like a cozy sock with a pocket. In the pocket went a piece of plastic that was moulded to my elbow. I was supposed to wear it every night, to hold my arm out straight as I slept. That did not really work out, I would wake up in the middle of the night and take it off, but I soon trained myself to sleep with my arm out straight and I sleep that way to this day.