Artist becoming desperate


Hello, I'll try to keep the relevant information of this post concise.

I'm a professional artist. This problem in my wrist began in October of 2019, first mild, then more severe. By December, I couldn't work anymore and could not hold my pen without significant pain. I decided to take all advice I could and took off the entire month of January with savings, and used a wrist splint every night. I didn't use my wrist for any gripping activities during this month. The symptoms eventually started going away after about 5 weeks, but then have been "stuck" in this kind of healed/not healed limbo ever since. My wrist/most affected fingers have never felt normal since, and every day there is noticeable mild pain constantly throughout the day. I try not to work with my hand for more than 4 or 5 hours per day, but since mid-February after my hiatus, there has not been a return to normal. I still use a splint every night, and if I forget, the next day will be worse.

-Burning/stinging pain from middle of wrist through palm to middle/ring fingers especially, but radiating a bit into the index and thumb, especially if it falls asleep at night. Pinky completed unaffected.
-Noticeable trigger finger in my ring finger, milder in my middle, but still evident.
-Pain exacerbated by drawing, even when using a technique that almost exclusively uses arm movements instead of wrist.
-Weakness of grip
-Pain concentrated mostly at the base of my ring and middle fingers
-Tingling from time to time in thumb, index, middle fingers. Especially in the morning.

All of these symptoms were much worse in the months leading up to my 4-5 weeks of time off. Thankfully they mostly went away, but there are residual effects that refuse to heal. Basically I had 5 weeks of significant healing (thankfully), followed by several months now of a steady state of mild symptoms of CTS.

What worries me is that I'm young and one year into my career. I'm only 29 and hope to have a very long career ahead of me. This issue persisting for so long is starting to cause severe anxiety/depression and especially not knowing whether this is just now going to affect me for the rest of my life.

Is this just something that I'll have permanently now and never be able to enjoy my passions again? If my wrist stayed in its current state, I could work at half capacity, but it's not enjoyable and I spend 90% of my time while drawing thinking about my wrist and positioning in properly rather than on the work I need to complete.

I'm posting here out of desperation and to seek advice about what to do. Currently I'm living in France and will not be able to see a specialist for a while.

Thank you for reading.


From that description my first guess at diagnosis would probably be that you might have a primary problem of flexor tenosynovitis, possibly with a degree of carpal tunnel syndrome as a secondary complication of that. That would be fairly consistent with the AI in the website's estimate of a 9% probability of CTS. Some investigations would probably help to clarify that a bit - both nerve conduction studies and ultrasound imaging would probably be useful and of course I think you probably need to be able to examine the hand as well for things like triggering of the digits. I presume you are not local to me? JB


Hello doctor. Thanks for responding so quickly. With that in mind then, I should schedule an appointment for it to be physically examined for both of those. I will ask about a nerve conduction and ultrasound when we can make an appointment here.

Unfortunately not local - I'm in France for the foreseeable future so will have to find a doctor to examine it here. It's helpful to know what to ask about before I go, though. I had never heard of flexor tenosynovitis. The only thing is I've never seen visible swelling of any digits.

Is it a less severe issue than CTS? Does it lead into CTS if not treated? I want to figure out how to stay healthy as an artist and something so early on in my career that derailed me so badly is extremely worrying.

Thank you for any advice.


In the grand scheme of things neither condition would generally be termed 'serious' but both can be a significant nuisance because we are so dependent on our hands. There doesn't have to be any visible swelling but triggering of a digit is very suggestive of tenosynovitis and the two problame are linked together in some way - trigger digit (official name stenosing tenosynovitis) is known to be much more commoner in people with CTS. There is a page of the website devoted to the issue. JB 


Interesting read. Thanks for pointing me to it. I'm not sure if it's related, but I did have mobility problems in this wrist when I was a kid due to ganglion cysts that persisted for a few years. If I remember I had to get one surgically removed/drained at one point. I wonder if that problem could be coming back and causing this, if it's not actually CTS.

I'll get to a doctor for a scan and diagnosis as soon as I'm able to find one and will update here with the findings, but it might be a few weeks. Maybe my experience will be helpful to those who think they have CTS but maybe just had a related wrist problem.

Thank you again for responding and helping me think more clearly.

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