Sunday, October 14, 2012

Digitally remastered

I have a disorder called Dupuytren’s contracture, which causes my right hand to develop hard cords and lumps that pull my little finger into my palm. It’s not a life-threatening illness, but it limits my yoga practice—no downward-facing dogs or handstands—though I suppose it could expand my practice if I would only view it as an exercise in non-attachment to such earthly achievements.

The treatments can be radical: amputation of the affected digit; surgery to open the palm to remove the cords, which requires skin grafts and months of physical therapy; painful injections with cord-dissolving chemicals derived from gangrene bacteria; doing nothing and just living with the limitations.

This is what it looks like:

There is another treatment, not much practiced in the U.S., called needle aponeurotomy. In this less-is-more technique, the surgeon injects lidocaine into your palm and finger and uses the sharp edge of the needle to perforate the cord—over and over—then stretches the finger to break the cord into unattached segments. It requires no systemic anesthesia and no PT other than wearing a spring-loaded splint at night, and you can use your hand almost immediately.

I did this four days ago. I can’t do weight-bearing exercises for another week or so, but here’s what it looked like 24 hours after the procedure:

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