Today I’m here to tell you a story about carpal tunnel! And here it goes:
I had it.
It’s gone now.
I beat carpal tunnel.
Pretty good story, right? Especially since for a few months there I was living in fear of my hands drying up into useless twig-like claws of despair, which really made writing fun. (Psych. Can we bring “psych” back, btw? And have I made the psych joke before? If so, sorry.)
Anyway, you’re probably most interested in the whole “I beat carpal tunnel” part of the story, so let’s talk about that stat. Here’s my advice for beating carpal tunnel as a writer.
I’m not going to get all science-y on you, but in a nutshell, carpal tunnel syndrome is a narrowing of the carpal tunnel passage in your hand. This passage is made up of bones and ligaments, and a nerve runs through it. When the area gets effed up, it inflames and narrows, nerves are pinched and things are torn, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket.
You experience this pleasant condition as tingling, numbness, cramping, tightness and imminent clawification. (Side note: I just added that to my dictionary in Word. Worth it.) This is a result of unnatural hand postures that damage the hand, the tunnel and the nerves. The good news? You can fix them by fixing how you work.
One of the biggest contributors to carpal tunnel is having your arms at the wrong angle. Your arms should be at, or close to, a 90-degree angle, your upper arm perpendicular to your forearm. Usually when it’s not, it’s because your chair is too low. Raise your chair. If you can’t, get a new chair.
Pay attention to where your arms line up with your computer. The way the keypad is laid out – especially the tight formation necessary for laptops – can make our hand positioning go all wonky. If you, like me, have one straight arm and one jankily bent arm, fix it. Make sure both arms are forming the same angle as they approach the keys. (P.S. I just added “jankily” too. Today is a fun word day!)
The Evoluent VerticalMouse is hands-down my favorite tool for the not-getting-of carpal tunnel. I used to have pain in my wrist all the time until I got this, and now I experience it maybe a third of the time I used to. When I follow the other tips on this list, that goes down to almost nothing.
Just as you get neck pain when you stare at a computer for 10 hours a day, you get wrist pain if you do nothing but type for hours on end. Sometimes, no matter how good you are with your other adjustments, you’ll still experience pain. When my hands and wrists act up, I do these exercises to beat carpal tunnel. Doing them regularly decreases the instances of discomfort, but I’ll warn you that it does pretty much nothing when I’m not being ergonomic.
Just get up. Shake it out. Move. You already knew this. Now do it.
Typing is not the only thing that can cause a narrowing of your carpal tunnel. I also notice symptoms when I’ve spent too long drawing on my tablet. Because I use a stylus, my hand is often curled into that position for hours on end and it becomes a problem. You might notice symptoms any time you’re engaging in repetitive, fine-motor movement with your hands or wrists.
I’m not saying don’t do these activities, obviously. We all have to live. I AM saying you should take the same precautions with other activities that you do with typing: chair at the right height, arms at a non-tweaked angle, lots of breaks and exercises.
Yeah, yeah, I know. No one wants to hear this, and the amount of information on the web cursing wheat and dairy is frankly exhausting. But. But. These are two of my biggest food allergens (yes, I’ve been tested, I’m not just bandwagoning here), and I know for a fact that when I avoid them, I experience much less wrist and hand pain.
Other allergens that cause carpal tunnel flare-ups: alcohol, nicotine, VOCs from paint or salons, cocaine. (Just kidding on the last one. I mean, unless you are doing cocaine, in which case typing is probably difficult anyway.)
Again, you have to live your life, but if you want to beat carpal tunnel it’s a good idea to avoid allergens, as well as refined foods and red meats.
That’s the list! Anything I missed that you would include? Let us know in the comments!
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