Cubital Tunnel Surgery: How One Mom with Pain Finally Found Relief—and Freedom

woman who had cubital tunnel surgery walking with her daughter

When’s the last time you got excited about taking out the trash? What about washing a pile of dirty dishes? For people living with hands that hurt, finally getting back to doing everyday things (even chores!)—quickly and without discomfort—feels like a blessing. After four years of getting misdiagnosed, one young mom with five kids finally got hand pain relief with life-changing cubital tunnel surgery.

This is her story.

Emily M.’s Patient Story

Hometown: Kokomo, IN
Age: 33

Newborn Joy Cut Short by New Hand Condition

I started having pain in my right hand near my thumb when my daughter was just an infant (she’s five now). It broke my heart because I could barely hold her. My hand hurt so badly. I was so afraid I’d drop her. I missed out on so much bonding time with her.

My thumb joint was so swollen and hot to the touch. I decided to ask my primary care doctor about it, but he didn’t have an answer. He only guessed it might be mommy’s thumb, but he wasn’t sure and told me just to monitor it.

The burning and aching in my thumb continued to get worse. Then, the hand pain started shooting up to my shoulder. That’s when my primary care doctor finally agreed to refer me to a hand specialist.

Multiple Misdiagnoses and Increasing Hand Pain

I was hopeful, but it turns out that the hand specialist misdiagnosed my hand pain. Even after getting multiple injections and having several surgeries for what that surgeon thought was carpal tunnel syndrome or De Quervain's tenosynovitis, I still had chronic hand pain.

That hand specialist told me he didn’t know why I still hurt. He said, “You should be fixed. I don’t know what to do.” I felt abandoned by him.

My hand still hurt, so I wanted another opinion. I decided to see another local specialist who was recommended by a nurse that works at my company. That hand doctor did four rounds of ganglion nerve block injections in my neck, but they didn’t help.

I still had pain in both my arms and down my spine. I was in agony.

From there, I decided to try getting spinal cord stimulation from a prestigious academic medical center out of state, but—after lots of time and money spent traveling for all of their screening tests—I wasn’t approved for that advanced treatment. Instead, I was given lots of pain pills, but I stopped taking them because they didn’t help.

I was devastated and gave up hope. I was sure that I’d never get hand pain relief. That’s why I decided to just try and live as normally as I could with my hand pain.

The pain was so bad that I still couldn’t pick up my daughter. I’d do what I had to to get through my day at work then, then once I got home I’d go straight to my bed and cry.

I was miserable and didn’t feel like myself.

An IHTSC Hand Specialist Inspires Hope

After noticing three little knots develop on my hand, my new primary care provider recommended that I see a specialist at IHTSC in case those growths were cancerous. They were getting bigger rapidly. So, I made an appointment with Dr. Smetana to look into the knots. 

At my appointment, though, I held back. I decided I wouldn’t tell him about the other hand pain symptoms that I had been battling for the previous four years.

Dr. Smetana removed the knots to check them out, and he was able to determine they weren’t cancer which was such a relief. It was at my appointment to hear the results when I finally broke down. I finally told him everything about the debilitating hand pain I had been battling unrelated to the knots.

He said, “I hate to say this, but I think you need to have cubital tunnel surgery.”

At that point, I was willing to try anything because Dr. Smetana was an expert. Plus, he was one of the first people I’d talked to about my hand pain who didn’t think I was crazy. He actually listened to me.

Dr. Smetana said he wasn’t giving up on me. He told me, “We were going to figure this out—together.” And, he was right.

After the cubital tunnel surgery with Dr. Smetana, it didn’t take long to see results. I was still healing—bandaged and in a cast—when my nerve pain was gone. My arm felt brand new. I was in disbelief. I feel so lucky to have found Dr. Smetana.

The Right Diagnosis and Treatment

Everyone with hand pain needs to know how wonderful Dr. Smetana is and how caring, patient, understanding, and truly amazing he is. 

I have been to see so many hand specialists, and Dr. Smetana is the first doctor who wanted to talk through everything and really get to the bottom of what was happening to me. I struggle with anxiety so I love that he made me part of the whole process. With Dr. Smetana, I wasn’t scared when it came time to have cubital tunnel surgery.

I appreciate that he always listens when I am in the office. Dr. Smetana doesn’t care how many questions I have. He never walks out of the room until he knows I am 100% okay with any treatment. He doesn’t make any decisions for me. 

After suffering for so long, I can’t believe how much Dr. Smetana has done for me in such a short amount of time.

Today, I can pretty much do everything. My daughter is in kindergarten now, and she weighs 50 pounds. I can pick her up more easily today than when she was a newborn because of my successful cubital tunnel surgery.

I am so grateful. Dr. Smetana’s care. He truly changed my life for the better.

Is Cubital Tunnel Surgery Worth It?

The exact cause of a patient’s cubital tunnel syndrome isn’t always clear. A good wrist and hand specialist will always talk through all the options with you. 

For the most severe cases like Emily M.’s—where patients have debilitating hand pain, disability, and muscle weakness and conservative treatments have not helped—surgical procedures, such as cubital tunnel surgery, may be recommended to relieve pressure and help you feel better.

Experts in Hand Pain Relief

Since 1971, patients from across Indiana and throughout the United States have placed their trust in Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center’s compassionate hand specialists

“Don’t give up. Here’s Dr. Smetana’s phone number.’ That’s what I would tell anyone who has hand pain that they think they have to live with. I know it’s hard these days to find any doctor who genuinely cares about their patients and has the know-how to do cubital tunnel surgery well, but they do exist. Dr. Smetana is proof.”

What Makes IHTSC Different?

We specialize in helping patients whose conditions go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed elsewhere. 

In fact, our unsurpassed expertise is so well-known that we’re often the hand specialists that other doctors turn to when they need help—for themselves or their patients.

Does IHTSC Treat My Hand Condition?

IHTSC is the right place to come when you need the best hand care.

Whatever your need, our highly specialized team has the extensive experience required for treating both common shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand problems as well more obscure, serious, or complex conditions with notable success.

How Do I See an IHTSC Specialist?

Take back control of your hands. Call us at (317) 751-5904 to schedule by phone.

Or, request an appointment online

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Disclaimer: The materials on this website have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute advice. You should not act or rely upon any medical information on this website without a physician’s advice. The information contained within this website is not intended to serve as a substitution for a thorough examination from a qualified healthcare provider. The display of this information is not intended to create a health care provider-patient relationship between the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center and you.