My Personal Story of Misdiagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When the Carpal Tunnel is inflamed from irritation, it can put pressure on the Median Nerve that goes through the tunnel.
When the Carpal Tunnel is inflamed from irritation, it can put pressure on the Median Nerve that goes through the tunnel. | Source

Over a period of six years my left hand would occasionally get numb. I even had experiences where I would wake up in the middle of the night and my hand would be totally limp. That is, it was like a dead extremity on the end of my arm.

As soon as I moved the numbness would dissipate and the deadness would improve. I would quickly be able to move my hand and fingers. This happened more and more often as time went by.

I went to a neurologist, who recommended a wrist brace. This was something that I could buy over the counter in a drug store. I rarely had a problem whenever I used the brace, which I wore at night. I didn’t need it during the day since I hardly ever had problems with numbness while I was up and around.

After six years of using the wrist brace, I needed to see a hand specialist for an unrelated minor injury to one of my fingers. Being a good doctor, he inquired about other health issues I might have. So I mentioned the numbness to him.

He did a nerve conduction study, which involves sending electrical impulses through my nerves. The purpose of this test is to measure the speed that the impulses passed through my median nerve in my hands to my brain and back again.

He said the results of the study indicated that I had carpal tunnel syndrome in my left hand.

The carpal tunnel is where the median nerve runs through from the hand, through the wrist, and on up the arm to the brain. When the ligaments around the wrist are inflamed from stress, they push on the carpal tunnel. The pressure disturbs the nerves, causing numbness and pain.

I never had pain, but my hand would get numb.

My doctor said that if I didn’t have it fixed, each time my hand got numb the nerves might die a little. And somewhere along the way, they would never recover.

So, of course I had surgery, which involved making a small incision and cutting the ligament that was putting pressure on the carpal tunnel.

The surgery was done as an outpatient procedure in the hospital. But since I was put to sleep, they required that someone drive me home afterwards.

After The Carpal Tunnel Surgery

I was sent home with a huge pillow contraption that I used to prop my hand up while I slept. I had to sleep on my back to keep my hand on top of this pillow contraption for about a week.

Other than that, I was back to normal immediately and went about my daily routines. Luckily, I am right handed and since it was my left hand it didn’t interfere with my ability to continue doing everything.

A few weeks later, I had the stitches removed and everything was fine. It couldn’t have gone any better or have been any easier.

I noticed that I never had the numbness or the limpness occur again after the surgery. At least not for a long time.

But almost two years later I started having the numbness occur again, once in a while, in the middle of the night. My doctor did tell me that there is a possibility carpal tunnel can reoccur if I continue to irritate the wrist. But I never actually knew what it was I had done in the first place to irritate it.

Yes, I wrote a lot on the computer. Can’t you tell? I use my right hand to control the mouse, which puts pressure on the wrist while holding it is an unusual way. But it’s my left hand I had trouble with.

An Unrelated Injury Brings a New Discovery

Almost two years after the carpal tunnel surgery, I had injured my shoulder and my doctor sent me to an orthopedist. As a routine for proper diagnoses of shoulder problems, he ordered an MRI of my neck. ( Read more on that: My Personal Experience with a Torn Shoulder Rotator Cuff ).

The MRI showed that I had some herniated discs in my cervical spine! That’s the top of the spine, which is actually the neck.

This might have been caused by years of working at the computer, typing my articles and reading on the screen while leaning forward and bending my head up. Not to mention all the programming I do to maintain my web site, or crimping the phone between my neck and my shoulder when I talk to clients.

An MRI showed that I had herniated discs in my cervical spine, the spine section in the neck.
An MRI showed that I had herniated discs in my cervical spine, the spine section in the neck. | Source

The problem is that the herniated discs push against the spinal cord and the pressure can interfere with the nerves running through the spine. So it should be treated.

Treatment is sometimes as simple as changing behavior. Such as modifying sitting position and sleeping with the right sized pillows under the head.

I needed to raise my office chair (it’s adjustable) and I lowered the monitor, so I don’t look up as I look at the computer screen. That helped correct my sitting posture so I don't crimp my neck back.

Maintaining proper posture while sitting or standing is very important to avoid disc compression. I have always stood erect with a good posture. But working at my computer is another thing altogether. And I wasn't being good to myself. I spent decades working on the computer without giving any thought to my cervical spine.

I also was told to sleep on my back with a pillow under my head to keep it from falling back. No problem. Ironically I already was doing that since I had gotten used to sleeping that way after the carpal tunnel surgery.

But guess what? ...

I May Never Have Had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When my doctor read the clinical report of the MRI, he told me that the nerves in my neck that the herniated discs were pressing against might have caused my hand to get numb. He added that it’s possible I may never have had carpal tunnel syndrome.

Well, that explains why the numbness started reoccurring.

I asked my doctor why it got better after the surgery if it was my neck coursing the problem. He asked me if I was sleeping differently since then. I slept with a huge pillow that they gave me after the surgery. This was used to hold my hand up while sleeping. That got me used to sleeping on my back. And I continued sleeping that way ever since then.

Sleeping on my back with my head on a decent pillow kept my neck in the proper position without putting stress on my cervical spine. This kept the nerves in my neck from being squashed by the herniated discs. And it probably helped keep the condition from getting worse.

I was told that sleeping that way, with the proper use of the pillow under my head, might eventually allow the discs in my neck to move back into position. I can feel that this is happening since I never have the numbness in my hand when I am kind to my neck.

Be kind to your neck. Every nerve that connects your brain to the rest of your body runs through your neck. knew that.


The purpose of this article is to share my experience in an effort to explain how symptoms may be misdiagnosed. The information here should not be used to perform your own diagnoses. If you have pain or any related issues, see your doctor.

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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Comments 11 comments

Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

I experienced carpal tunnel syndrome when I was pregnant, so when I had a similar problem at another time I figured it was recurring. It would come and go, and eventually it got so annoying that I went to a new doctor and found out I actually had tendinitis of the wrist! Turns out the treatment was similar (wrist brace, Tylenol) but the prognosis was much better (no nerve death -- hooray!). I'm glad that you finally got a correct diagnosis and relief, too. Pain in the wrists is no fun, and it makes life very hard for people who sit at a computer all day.

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 4 years ago from Isle of Man

I thoroughly enjoyed your story and have also shared it on Twitter and Facebook.

This is also a very good example of how we are hypnotised by people we perceive as authority figures and how so many problems are caused by their suggestions which are accepted by the subconscious.

People spend most of their time in the state of hypnosis going about their daily loves on auto-pilot and very rarely questioning their experiences especially when being told what to do by those in authority. Thank you for a great hub.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

jenubouka ~ I would recommend you go to your doctor and explain your symptoms and your concerns. Thanks for reading.

Brainy Bunny ~ There can be so many other causes of symptoms for just about anything. That’s why it's so important to see the right doctor. Even to get second opinions. I'm glad you found the true cause of your pain without requiring surgery.

Spirit Whisperer ~ I'm glad you enjoyed my story. You had an interesting analogy for it. Thanks for sharing it on Twitter and Facebook. Much appreciated.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

The things we do to our bodies while writing. I have a laptop and sometimes work in the living room in my recliner instead of at my office. Moving from place to place helps but that mouse or trackpad in my case can still cause our hands to be in a cramped position. I hope you are better now, pain or numbness either one is no fun.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Yes I keep it under control now that I found out it wasn't Carpal Tunnel after all, as I explained in this Hub. I just need to keep my head straight so I don't pinch my neck.

When you work from your recliner, take some breaks and stand up and walk around once in a while. That might help. Thanks for stopping by.

Kalux profile image

Kalux 4 years ago from Canada

I will be bringing this up to my doctor for sure, I find this very interesting. I will also try to sleep to sleep on my back with a thicker pillow, I imagine that might be beneficial for a number of reasons since I have a habit of sleeping on my stomach with my head twisted sideways. This may just be the most helpful to my real life hub that I've read :) (Including your reply which is appreciated!) Thanks so much.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

(I'm reposting this comment with typo corrections)


The problem is that doctors today are specialists. They specialize in one thing and they know very little about anything else.

In my case, my hand doctor, who said I had Carpal Tunnel, never understood a thing about what might be happening in my neck. He never considered that my wrist problems might be related to a herniated disc in my cervical spine.

As I mentioned in my article, I found out about my herniated discs much later from an MRI that my orthopedist did. So you might want to discuss with your doctor what he or she thinks about that.

In the meantime you might want to try sleeping on your back with a thick pillow under your head. That's what my orthopedist told me to do, and it helped.

I was starting to have numbness in my feet in the middle of the night. Sleeping with a think pillow, holding my head up slightly, solved that problem since it kept the herniated discs in my neck from putting pressure on the nerves.

So talk to your doctor about it. I hope you find the solution and the reason for your pain. Thanks for stopping by and reading my article.

Lorrie 3 years ago

When I went to have my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome corrected the surgeon said" No"

It was stemming from the neck and see a spine surgeon.

I did have the surgery. But it came back.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Lorrie - I hope you went to see a spine specialist as your doctor had suggested. Since your Carpal Tunnel came back after surgery, it's possible that the problem is in your neck - as was the case with me. Try sleeping on your back with your head propped up on a thick pillow. That worked for me. No more numbness anywhere as long as I do that.

brakel2 profile image

brakel2 10 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Glenn - This article interests me, as I have problems similar to yours. I also have a problem in my neck with a misaligned joint, and I do exercises. Thank you for your article with the information on the carpal tunnel and other problems. It makes me realize to get to the correct physician and have correct posture. Sharing Blessings, Audrey

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 10 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

brakel2- Yes Audrey, it is important to go to the right physician. Unfortunately, the wrong one will not see the real problem since they are focused on only their own profession. That's what's so sad about the condition of healthcare today. We really need to do our own research and verify that our doctor is doing the right thing. Good to see you around, Audrey. Take care of your neck problems.

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