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does anyone know anything about neurology? Muscles in my hand are withering

(11 Posts)
OhThisbloodyComputer Thu 14-Dec-17 11:47:38

Two and a half years after a bike accident, I noticed that muscles in my left hand were disappearing.

That triangular area between the thumb and forefinger has prominent muscle on my right hand, but is hollow in my left hand.

Tests in June showed there was a trapped nerve in my elbow.

In September they operated under local anaesthetic to cut through the gristle and scar tissue and free the nerve.

Since then though, the hand doesn't seem to have recovered.

The surgeon told me yesterday there wasn't much they can do about it.

He discharged me back to GP with a recommendation for physio

I'm clueless about the whole thing.

Anyone know any good exercises to do?

I tried squeezing a tennis ball but that doesn't work.

Am i just going to have to accept the fact that my left hand will whither away?

How come that some muscles have wasted, and yet others (for gripping and typing) still seem to work?

Anyone know any good sources for further reading?

lyrebird1 Thu 14-Dec-17 21:47:19

Hi, I have nerve damage in my left hand which has led to muscle wastage. There are several nerves which work the hand muscles, so if they are not all damaged, there will not be as much muscle wastage. I think you tend to compensate for the damage as well - it is the nerve to my last 3 fingers that is damaged, but I have reasonable grip, as I use my palm to grip more now.

Regarding hand exercises, my physio suggests using things with graduating resistance, so you increase the tension as you get stronger. A tennis ball would be quite tough to start. There are lots of hand/finger strengtheners on Amazon - I like the gel eggs and finger resistance bands, both in sets of varying resistance Alternatives are play doh and hair bands if you don't want to spend too much.

Exercises I do are: clenching (like you would a fist) a gel egg; holding the egg loosely and pressing one finger at a time into it; putting the finger resistance band around my fingers and extending fingers outwards, together and one finger at a time. I do a few minutes several times a day, and stop when hand starts to ache.

Sorry for the essay - hope it is some help. It takes time to work, but it is worth persisting. Although I will never have full sensation due to the nerve damage, I have regained function to the point that I can play the piano as badly as I used to!

Allthecoolkids Thu 14-Dec-17 21:52:14

Have you had physio before??
There are lots of exercises you can do but without examining you and seeing precisely what you can and can’t do it’s hard to advise.

I would consider trying to find half a dozen private physio sessions if you dont get anywhere with the NHS referral.

OhThisbloodyComputer Fri 15-Dec-17 00:42:59

thank you @lyrebird1 and @Allthecoolkids

I was wonderng if I was a unique case.

The surgeon has referred me back to my GP with a recommendation that I get physiotherapy.

But thanks for those exercise tips. I will try them in the meantime. (It'll be two weeks before the surgeon's letter is typed out and sent to the GP, from my experience. )

Thanks again both of you, I appreciate your kindness

roundaboutthetown Sat 16-Dec-17 21:24:41

Unfortunately, two and a half years' worth of serious nerve compression may well have caused permanent, irreversible nerve damage, and if this is so, then the muscle relating to the damaged nerve will not recover. Physiotherapy can certainly strengthen other muscles to compensate for the atrophied area and if the nerve is capable of regeneration, will help build up the muscles again more quickly.

OhThisbloodyComputer Sun 17-Dec-17 18:42:11


Thanks for this. You've given me more information than the surgeon did.

I told them my elbow was painful. It was only when the muscles in my hand had noticeable withered (roughly 30 months after the original crash) that the surgeon said "Oh, I might send you down the corridor for a test." This took literally half an hour, (including the time walking down the corridor, getting the attention of the receptionist and waiting my turn)

The man put some electrical terminals on my arm and ran a tiny current, then said "I'm pretty certain you've got a trapped nerve." It was that easy.

A few months later they hacked away the gristle and freed the nerve. But by the sound of it, it's damaged beyond repair which is why my muscles are continuing to atrophy.

I'm grateful for the operation. But I get the impression it's too late.

The nerve is permanently damaged beyond repair.

The test for a trapped nerve isn't expensive or difficult. I don't get why they couldn't have done that all that time ago.

roundaboutthetown Sun 17-Dec-17 20:21:58

OhThis - don't give up hope, as it can take a few years for nerves to recover. There may well be some improvement over the next couple of years, even if full strength is never restored. Nerves are unpredictable! Physio will help maximise the speed of any improvement that does happen. If you are lucky, you might make a full recovery, although the worse the atrophying and compression in the first place, the less likely a full recovery is. The younger you are, the greater your chances of a good outcome.

OhThisbloodyComputer Mon 18-Dec-17 00:57:44


thanks for this. You've been far more help than I got in 3 years of sporadic visits to the neurosurgeons

I really appreciate this. thank you.

roundaboutthetown Mon 18-Dec-17 08:47:20

That's OK. See what the physio says - they will be able to give you an idea of how quickly to expect improvement, or if you have cause to go back to the neurosurgeon again, as they will have seen cases like yours before and will be spending time with you discussing and demonstrating exercises and then assessing the next time they see you how well they have worked (or they certainly should be!). Don't be fobbed off by one physio appointment and a generic leaflet - you should be seen several times, by a physio who specialises in hand therapy.

OhThisbloodyComputer Tue 19-Dec-17 10:54:26

Once again, that is really useful

I had been seeing physios on and off, but they tended to be generalists.

once told me to do one set of exercises, the other said "that's the last thing you should be doing"

I never thought of asking for a specialist in Hand Therapy.

If you hadn't told me that, i'd have made the same mistake all over again.

thank you so much. I was worrying about this at one in the morning, but I feel a bit more confident now.

You deserve to have a lovely day. So please do.

OhThisbloodyComputer Wed 20-Dec-17 10:06:26


Thanks again for this. (Just re-read what you said)

I'm now doing hair bandercise.

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