The Carpal Tunnel Club: Are You a Member?

Writers corner the market on carpal tunnel syndrome--or so we think.

My membership is in good standing. My forearm (especially the right side) hurts from the elbow to the wrist. The splint and elbow band help, but even in my sleep my arm aches. I've tried different keyboards, mouse positions, etc., but I still haven't found what I'm looking for. (Hey! That sounds familiar.)

While surfing the net last night (thus ensuring my membership in The Carpal Tunnel Club), I discovered that people in other vocations suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. According to this Wikipedia entry, U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. has experienced pain throughout most of his career--he even uses specially designed drumsticks.

Cake decorators suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. So do pizza makers, waterskiers, and hairstylists.

My research stopped there; my hand was hurting. But I discovered the club was not as exclusive as I had originally thought. And if Larry can do it, so can I! Buck up, writers! We're all suffering for our art!

11 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

I learned to type on those old manual typewriters with sticky keys that had to be struck hard. When I was at university, all my friends had new electric numbers. I had a manual made in 1935; it got me through college and graduate school (as did a series of secretarial jobs), but I've got arthritis in both my little fingers as a result.

While I don't have carpal tunnel, I do have a frozen shoulder. They claim it's partly related to the excessive amounts of time I spend writing, but I'm in denial.

elysabeth said...

Yep - frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel and other such syndromes are not exclusive to writers or typists. Mechanics, sign language interpreters, and others have the market covered too. The key is to rest and not do repetitive motions constantly.

Danette, Sounds like your carpal tunnel may be more than you want to know. It also sounds like you are heading for surgery, which is fairly quick and easy and probably more beneficial than people realize - When you get to the point that nothing is helping, then you need to seek surgical release (the carpal tunnel nerve is being pinched and thus giving us symptoms - it is an overuse, stretched nerve and by doing repetitive motions, it gets stuck in the tunnel, so we have pain, dysesthesias, numbness, tingling, et cetera). The procedure takes a short amount of time and usually within a few weeks most people are back to doing what they were before the surgery. I have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome many years ago but my symptoms weren't bad enough to warrant surgery at the time. I also cross stitch and since I've been doing that longer than I had been typing, at the time - now it's about even and I don't do my cross stitching as much any more due to lack of time and interest - the doctor didn't want to recommend surgery. Fine with me. But as the years have progressed, I can tell on some days more than others that I need to be checked out again.

Do not rest your hands on your pads or anything - the trick is to keep them at a flat angle - make sure your seat height is adjusted so when you type your hands are not resting on the wrist pad on the keyboard, they should be straight from your elbow to your knuckles - the only thing that should be bent is your fingers for the typing position. If you feel your hands relaxing or that you are curving your wrists to type up then you need to adjust. When I was in the sign language interpreting program, we were given some exercises and other hints to help lessen the likelihood of getting carpal tunnel syndrome too early, because of the repetitive motions, you are going to develop some form of the syndrome regardless - it is not totally preventable but it is detainable.

So take precautions and if your wrists are flexing to reach up to type or down then you need to adjust your chair. You want your wrists to be in a straight line - not bent down which is the major cause of the syndrome.

If all else fails, then you need to see a surgeon and have your carpal tunnel released in order to perform better - take care - E :)

Linda D. (sbk) said...

Okay, I've never admitted this in public before, but I have found a strange way to use a mouse that doesn't bother my wrist.

First, I don't use my pointer to click - I use my middle finger. I don't keep my hand with palm facing down - I rest my hand sort of in a natural sideways so the weight is kinda by the pinky.

Now, if you're following me so far, you're probably thinking, well hell, how are you supposed to left click your mouse all the time if you're using your wrong finger? Would you believe you can actually program your computer to register the buttons backwards.

So when someone tells me to right click, I actually have to left click - the only time I use my index finger because my arm is all nice and comfy to the side.

Was that way too complicated to follow?

Anyway, you could try it, as long as you don't think you'll get too confused.

Decaf, please said...

graphic designers also get it a lot. it's from all that detailed photoshop work, etc.

i also had a real estate agent who had carpal tunnel. it was so bad he had to have surgery. he was a web freak, always updating homes on his site.

courtney said...

It's always nice to know you don't suffer alone, especially when the other person just happens to be the drummer of your favourite band. :) Ideally, no one would be suffering from it at all,, but still. It's always nice to say, "If X can work through it, so can I!"

Danette Haworth said...

Mary,
My sister and I bought the latest whizbang electric typewriter just out of high school. My university had a computer lab, but UCF was an hour drive (depending on traffic), and professors still accepted typewritten reports, Wite Out and all.

Elysabeth,
The specialist made me have one of those electric nerve tests. He said that my CT was chronic but not bad enough yet for surgery.

BTW, your reply here was so well written and knowledgeable; it made me remember that you transcribe or work with medical documents.

Linda,
Anything that works! I saw one really weird keypad: The board is two pieces, the left side and the right, and each piece hangs down the side of your chair so that your arms are hanging at your sides while you type. It's probably a good idea once you get used to it.

Decaf,
Yes, having carpal tunnel and an addiction to the web--it's bad, decaf, very bad!

Courntey,
Haha! So true! Now I can say, (hitching up my pants, smug look on my face) "Yeah, me and Larry . . ."

Danette Haworth said...

Courtney, not Courntey. I wish we could edit comments!

Ello said...

I have carpal tunnel syndrome. It's so bad that surgery was offered by my doctor and rejected by me, the big scaredy cat. I just didn't like the idea that this surgery would be irreversible. Some mornings my hands are so painful they carve into claws and I need my husband to physically help me straighten them out. Changing my typing position has helped immensely. I am doing better ever since I stopped working on a desktop and moved to my laptop and work with it on my lap. For somereason, I'm less inclined to press my wrists down when using my lap top on my lap. I think it is the position of my body. So even though my carpal tunnel still flares, it is actually not as bad as when I was on a desktop everyday. Anyway, good luck with yours! I always thought it was beauty that we were supposed to suffer for, not art!

Danette Haworth said...

I'm sorry to hear how painful it's become for you.

Oh, you might be right--we should be starving for our art! I think! Maybe I will just suffer, because I will not give up my Rich Frosted Entenmann's Donuts.

Shari said...

I'm definitely a member of the CT club, but I blame it on housework. (No, vacuuming and scrubbing make my CT flare up.... guess I'll have to spend the afternoon writing instead.)

Danette Haworth said...

Shari,

Yes, definitely avoid the loathsome chores of vacuuming and scrubbing--writing is so much better! Even with CT!