Tendonitis & Tenosynovitis & The whole wretched thing

I had worked as a qualified secretary since leaving college. I began work typing on a … typewriter at first, progressing through the various technological ways of increasing speed and thereby output! By the way, I had never used a “MOUSE” until I installed a home computer a couple of years ago. My first “trigger finger” was 12 years ago, the next a year later – then diagnosed with severe problems by the occupational therapy department who told me exactly what was causing it and referred me back to my specialist who diagnosed tenosynovitis. I left my employers on good terms and a SMALL, but fair, redundancy package (my old boss, who has now moved on, STILL phones me to see if I am better!!) Sorry, I ramble. Anyway, four trigger fingers operated on to release, three have worked really well. 3 more trigger fingers (I caught when they got to “clicking” stage and specialist [ortho. surgeon] gave me cortizone before they “went down”).

The usual carpal tunnel (which a lot of middle-aged women suffer from!) at the age of 33 operation to both hands. Ongoing TENOSYNOVITIS (OBVIOUSLY from my sideline as a road mender in between travelling from Northampton to London and bringing up my daughter single handed and paying the mortgage – oh and I don’t drive) and now tendonitis.
As you’ve probably heard from me before, tendonitis in my shoulder rotator cuff (which has restricted mobility – no, not as much as “frozen shoulder”) – many sleepless nights then 3 cortizone injections and the pain has almost gone, but still restricted mobility. Op or not? I have decided not – risk too great (scar tissue would immobilise the shoulder, that has happened to one finger – oh yes, guess which one? My RING finger is completely swollen – op done 6years ago).

Like someone else who has written into the list recently, I was an idiot: no breaks, worked through lunch, even sometimes worked on Saturday to catch up on all the work. No, I wasn’t slow! There was REAL work! All my workplaces have been similar. Couldn’t sue – BIG companies and no proof!! I am now worried about my daughter, who is about to embark on a scientific PhD. I have sent her the recent mailing from someone who contracted “problems” while working on his PhD, together with the RSI mailing FAQ and she intends to alert her tutor at University to the whole problem. I respect all your advice, but this time, as far as I’m concerned, you went too far. “White finger”, I think, used to be the term for those who work repairing the roads for us to travel, caused by pneumatic drills. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

Comment 1: Yes: “white finger” it is. I forgot the term. Sorry. And yes, the description of tenosynovitis is the one I have. It sounds as though you have a very slightly different one, but we have inflamed (and now torn) sheaths. And yes, anti-inflammatory are best for my tenosynovitis pain; but I can’t take them anymore. I must now have tendonitis too, there is no other explanation for the new kind of pains I have. (I don’t have rotator cuff as well, *thank goodness*, I am really sorry you do.) I take sleeping pills and pain killers, wine too late at night upsets me. I think both of us could probably do with a pain-free night without something “mellowing” us first. I am glad you told your daughter. I tried to get students to compute safely but they didn’t seem to take it in even when I was teaching them with both hands in splints, I told them I knew students who had it, they weren’t that impressed. Of course a lot of students face terrible pressure to.

Comment 2: Sorry about the mistake. I did think it was tenosynovits that was associated with pneumatic drills (thanks for reminding of what they’re called) but evidently I’m wrong. The no-break story is all too familiar. I used to do exactly the same — got to get the work done etc. I’m not surprised you’re worried about your daughter. Often at university they have to use workstation setups that are really just diabolical. I was worried about my daughter too. However, I was relieved to find that she did take the risks seriously, unlike her friends, precisely because she’d seen the problems I had. Maybe the same will be true for your daughter. Forewarned is forearmed.

It sounds as if maybe you thought I was saying you can’t get tenosynovitis through using a computer. That would be a very odd thing for me to say. Unfortunately many people do get tenosynovitis through computers. But you can also get tenosynovitis through non-computer-related work, and it’s because of that, that it’s included in the list of Industrial Injuries. The list hasn’t been updated since widespread computerization began, so of all the many diagnoses that someone with RSI might be given — tendonitis, for instance, or epicondylitis, the only ones that are accepted for the purposes of IIB are the ones that were known as work-related injuries before  the computers came. That was the point I was aiming at but I obviously didn’t say it very well.

If there’s anyone presently on the list who has tenosynovitis from non-computer work, maybe they’ll speak up and say more about this. If it isn’t the drills, is it chicken processing plants that have a big problem with tenosynovitis? I will do some searching on the web later and see what I can find out.

Comment 3: I had tenosynovitis in my foot many years ago, and I am very confident it was caused by a particular pair of badly-fitting cheap plastic shoes. I can remember my feet feeling very “tense” when I walked around in the shoes (I do a lot of walking) and I could feel the damage being done. Being young, poor and ignorant, I ignored it of course! Treatment was basically immobilisation as much as possible, helped by wearing an adhesive elastic bandage for a few weeks. The doctor said that once the tendon sheath is inflamed, it has a “gritty” surface, and so every movement then aggravates the condition hence immobilisation being the best solution, though difficult to achieve.

With regard to using wine as a sleep-inducer: one of my symptoms has been very puffy hands and for some reason it really distressed me (I think it made me feel old). I had slipped into the habit of having a couple of glasses of wine nearly every night, and I decided to give it up to see if it played any part in the puffy hands…embarrassingly, the puffiness has now almost entirely disappeared (and I had it back a bit yesterday after a party Saturday night).

Comment 4: Good heavens. I know shoes can cause lasting damage but I had no idea it could be as serious as that. Did it eventually go away, or do you still get pain with it? I discovered, as many have before me, that although wine seems to help one sleep, taken on a nightly basis it doesn’t. I don’t know whether that applies universally but it seems to be true for a lot of us.

Comment 5: I have what is known as stenosing tenosynovitis which is a locking of the affected finger in a bent position and is extremely hard and painful to straighten. This has been caused from repetitive use of air tools in an auto assembly factory. I have had 6 fingers affected and have had a surgical release performed on each (at different times during the last 12 years)with great success.None of them have bothered me since and I have had no change to my type of work. I was off work about 6-7 weeks and returned to my normal job after. This could be considered as a favourable option.

Comment 6: Thank you very much indeed for writing. I have been searching under tenosynovitis and not getting very far: “stenosing” is the missing word I needed. I found these pages which I thought might help people here; one explains better than http://www.sechrest.com/ how to test for De Q’s — the one I have. I am very glad indeed to hear that the operations were successful. I do hope all is well with you now.

Comment 7: The difference being: tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tendon sheaths; tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon itself. (I hope I have that the right way round!). The continual movement causing abrasion and “a sticky stuff” to glue the tendon somehow(!?) “it is”, and I have not studied Latin(!) I have ALWAYS taken to mean “inflammation”. I was diagnosed with tenosynovitis at the outset, but now (12 years on) have tendonitis also, so, hey, wasn’t I lucky to have the complaints that way round enabling me to receive IIB!!


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