Don’t Push Through the Pain

20 Comments

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Marc Goodson

The Evoluent Vertical mouse stopped my carpal tunnel tingling and allowed me to sleep at night, every time I dropped off my wrist would relax and the tingling and numbness in my fingers would wake me up, only sleeping with my wrists braced in a fixed ‘holding a beer glass’ position would allow me to sleep, and when you are tired the next day, so easy to just not bother with all the good habits mentioned above. It’s really worth trying out a vertical mouse, a lot of people are put off by the price of the Evoluent, (it’s a small price to pay, but a waste if you don’t adopt it) – I’ve found this cheaper vertical mouse by Anker (not affiliated in anyway) sufficient to trying out the handshake position and less of a price barrier for giving it a go: http://www.ianker.com/product/98ANWVM-BA

Rachel Andrew

The fact that I can’t sit still seems to have protected me in some way from RSI. However I have limited use of my right hand after breaking my elbow 2 years ago and use the Freestyle 2 Keyboard plus an arm rest for my right arm http://www.backinaction.co.uk/ergorest These arm rests are designed for people with RSI and are brilliant, I really couldn’t do as much as I do without it.

I’ve had to learn to use a trackpad left handed. I use Sticky Keys on the Mac for keyboard shortcuts which means I don’t need to hold down multiple keys at once.

My typing speed has halved and while I love the idea of text to speech, I can’t get my ideas down like that. There is something about typing for me that helps me write!

Zach Watkins

I wanted to thank you for writing this article. I am also dealing with workplace injuries, which started about 4 or 5 years ago. I’ve learned that even though the Wacom tablet has a low resistance for clicking, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the hand is no longer resting on anything – which means you have to keep it lifted. After using my Bamboo, mostly without the pen, for 3 years, I can say that using it as my primary mouse is what probably caused the tendonitis in my dominant arm. I have been to physical therapy, do stretches daily, use low weight and high reps for wrist, bicep and tricep exercises, and wear a compression strap around my dominant arm near the elbow. I also use a grip strengthener, since that was recommended to improve the mild arthritis in my fingers. I have used an ergonomic keyboard for almost a year and I couldn’t imagine working full-time at the kind of flat, rectangular keyboard that ships with every PC I can think of. I now use my Wacom for my left hand to ease some work from my right, and use a Logitech trackball mouse for my right hand. I also purchased a chair that can raise the arms and tilt forward to help fine-tune the position of my arms relative to my mouse and keyboard and reduce my tendency to slouch.

Alex Charchar

Thanks for this Carolyn, it’s a wonderful reminder and reinforces some conversations we’ve been having in the studio.

I’ve recently moved to a standing desk and cannot recommend it enough, if someone’s situation allows for it.

I made the move for all the health reasons that have been talked about a lot on sites like Lifehacker. I was really surprised by how quickly I was able to adapt to a standing desk, just switching to a tall chair when my muscles would get too tired. After a few weeks I hardly use the chair at all.

Benefits have been huge – pain in arms and back are mostly gone after years of constantly having to rub my shoulder and arms when I’d get home.

But most exciting for me was the new energy I ended up with. Instead of having a mid-afternoon energy slump that I’d fight with coffee of sugar, I’m finding I can focus and keep moving all through the afternoon.

Cannot stress enough how much small margins make big difference. An Oh&s specialist visited and mentioned my keyboard was about an inch lower than it should be, given my height.

We adjusted it and realised that my wrists had been in pain that I had become so accustomed to that I hardly noticed it any more. She mentioned that if I ignored something like that for a few years I’d end up with major wrist problems.

It’s a topic that gets skimmed over for more exciting things, but if we don’t take our health seriously, we won’t be able to do those exciting things for as long as we’d like.

Thanks again!

Carolyn Wood

Excellent suggestions! I hope more people will share theirs tips and stories.

It pains me, though, to see how many people are dealing with this. I was afraid of that.

Yes, Rachel, I can’t write by speaking, either. I think, oh, I remember way back when I thought I wouldn’t be able to write on a computer instead of paper, or be able to write without smoking cigarettes (eep!) and I made it through until it was natural. But, I think it would be very difficult to speak your “writing,” because you’d end up doing so much editing with your fingers in the end. I didn’t know about the arm rests and will check those out. Your story is so important to have here, because you are one of the most prolific people I know.

Jeff, thanks for bringing up posture. I could only cover so much in the article with putting people to sleep, and posture is a really big deal. I could only touch on it. Btw, there’s actually a big thing for doing self-massage. I’ll try to find it for you. It helps on shoulders and a few other areas. Looks like a combination torture/sex toy—um, not that I’d know what a sex toy looks like—but it helped keep me going during some of my problems. Used to use it all the time, and now I never need it.

Lars, what I do is make a checklist of stretches and other little habits, to make sure I do them each day. If I didn’t have the checklist of the stretches I do, I’d stop, and then run into trouble.

Marc, thanks for the “testimony” in support of the vertical mouse. Really happy you are having success with it.

Carolyn Wood

Thanks, everyone!

Ted, the strengthening exercises may have been too much, too soon for you. When I was in pain, I wouldn’t have been able to do them at all. The stretches are very gentle, especially in the beginning. Make sure, especially because your doctor may think you are contradicting him/her, that you point out the first section of the book, where the author details how gentle these are.

I’d also suggest re-evaluating the equipment you are using. As other people have mentioned, even a change of one inch in the height of the keyboard makes a huge difference.

And you may want to look at the version of the mouse that I recommended—the vertical mouse. It REALLY helped my wrist and, as I think back, the rest of my arm and my shoulder.

Jason Grigsby

Thank you for this article. I had my own battle with posture-related elbow pain. It was originally misdiagnosed as tennis elbow. I spent a lot of time treating the wrong issues.

The only thing I would add to your article is I found it incredibly important to find the right physical therapist who can diagnose your pain properly.

I was referred to one physical therapist and was making progress until I saw the first bill and realized their weren’t on my insurance plan. I bailed and went to the physical therapist on the plan and while I was spending less, I wasn’t making any progress.

I finally went back to the original physical therapist and because it had been so long, I was moved to a senior therapist. I think of him as sort of like the physical therapist version of House, but with much better bedside manner.

I realized that there was a big difference between physical therapists who are trained on how to treat a known issue and those who can figure out the root cause of a problem.

I’m fine with the former treating me for an ankle sprain or recovery from surgery, but for anyone dealing with RSI, I highly recommend finding a physical therapist who spends time looking at your whole body instead of simply treating your symptoms.

Jeff Porter

Great advice, Carolyn, and plenty for me to experiement with.

The first thing I came up with after a brief web search and a personal assessment of my injuries was CTS; the first thing my brother-in-law – a chartered physio – mentioned was posture.

I recently changed my chair, replacing a too-low, high-backed, executive-style chair with arms, with an infinitely more height-adjustable, armless typist’s chair.

Massages and the kind of treatments served up at Turkish baths, I have sought to avoid all of my life. Maybe it’s time…

Kai

May I point you to one additional source, an article I wrote several years ago that might help:

http://brizk.tumblr.com/post/2718610648/the-mindbody-prescription

It’s hard to say whether the book made ALL the difference but at the very least I relaxed a bit more about my struggle and tried to concentrate on staying positive about it. Today I still have pain in my wrist occasionally, but it’s at least 80% better than it used to be.

Lars Kühn

Thanks, Carolyn, for this strong plea for a conscious rendez-vous with my body.
Like we tidy up our living room and do the dishes when we prepare for christmas we need to keep the rooms of our brains in good condition when they are going to celebrate the work party.

There is a connection between the highly cognitive world of our work and the
highly physical world of our bodies, and this connection is threatened by carpel tunnel syndrome
and other disasters.

Your article has several good news for me:
* I am not special when my wrist pains,
* and I am no freak when I am unable to work because my finger tips are numb.
* I can take dandy preventative measures, and they look funny
* this topic can give me cause to rethink my work-life balance (or my work-shoulder-balance)
* life is not over, when it changes fundamentally

Lennie

Good article lots to think on, thanks.

The small changes I have made have made a big difference:

* Short keyboard (no number pad, reducing the stress on the mouse hand)
* Vertical mouse
* Lower desk
* Removed arm rests

Thanks for reminding me about stretching and strengthening, easy to forget.

Marc Goodson

The Evoluent Vertical mouse stopped my carpal tunnel tingling and allowed me to sleep at night, every time I dropped off my wrist would relax and the tingling and numbness in my fingers would wake me up, only sleeping with my wrists braced in a fixed ‘holding a beer glass’ position would allow me to sleep, and when you are tired the next day, so easy to just not bother with all the good habits mentioned above. It’s really worth trying out a vertical mouse, a lot of people are put off by the price of the Evoluent, (it’s a small price to pay, but a waste if you don’t adopt it) – I’ve found this cheaper vertical mouse by Anker (not affiliated in anyway) sufficient to trying out the handshake position and less of a price barrier for giving it a go: http://www.ianker.com/product/98ANWVM-BA

Paul Burgess

A great post – a real wake up call. After reading this I bought a veritcal mouse straight away – and after just two days I already feel more relaxed and comfortable.

For anyone interested – the same one Marc mentioned: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009D9CZ5C/ref=pe_385721_37986871_TE_item

I also found these ‘Wrist Donuts’ that look very interesting: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001O9I45O?

Keen to invest in a good ergonomic keyboard now. As far as Mac keyboards go – after a search around it seems the Freestyle is the only decent option.

If anyone knows of any good alternatives (just for the sake of shopping around) please drop a comment in.

Thank you Carolyn

Paul Burgess

Also – good point about eyes Nicolas. I use and recommend f.lux which adjusts your screen brightness + colour to suit the time of day. It’s ace: https://justgetflux.com/

Ruben Pieraerts

Hi, here is a small participation to the discussion. A teacher once recommend me to rest my eyes for 5 or 10 minutes every hour. It seems hard to follow but it is not only good for eyes but fo the whole body : with these little break you can rest your eyes, make stretching exercices,…

Ted Goas

Carolyn, thank you so much for writing this.

My mouse wrist began to hurt a few months ago and, realizing RSI-like symptoms aren’t uncommon in tech, started a daily routine that involves a number of strengthening exercises and stretches. What I didn’t realize is that I could be hurting myself with these stretches!

I ordered Sharon J. Butler’s book and plan on asking my doc about this. Thanks again!

Michelle Vandy

Hi Carolyn! Thank you for commenting on my Twitter page and sharing this article with me. I can completely relate to the severe level of RSI you said you’ve experienced. For me it also felt like it happened very suddenly, however in hindsight I’ve realized there were many warning signs. Your “how to crawl back” list is very informative – wish I’d read it a few years back! :)

Dmitri Tcherbadji

Believe it or not, rock climbing saved me. Generally staying in shape and dedicating an appropriate amount of time is dedicated to keeping the whole body healthy no matter the deadlines is super important. Rock climbing is a sport heavily dependant on finger strength. Working those muscles out adds to their strength, generates enormous amounts of blood flow that you need to repair and gives them a different sort of motion – developing strength and agility.
But don’t forget to stretch, especially your chest and shoulders as that’s where rock climbing will create a lot of tension.

Literally the same exact thing happened to me as described in the article, thankfully it only lasted 2-4 weeks.

Jen Simmons

Thanks for this article Carolyn!

My aching arms were never a big deal, but I’m glad I made changes to make things better. The last 10 years have been much better, but recently my hands started to ache again. This is a great reminder to pay attention and make the small adjustments early to prevent bigger problems.

Oh, and a professional need to book a massage? Sure!

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