Sunday, October 01, 2006

Word Economist: Treating My Aching Wrist

I’ve been dealing with aching wrists — an occupational hazard for writers, bloggers, journalists or anyone who spends lots of time on the keyboard. I’ve found a few alternative solutions that have helped to really reduce the stress on my hands and the pain without surgery.

I'm sensitive about this issue because so much of my livelihood depends on the health of my hands. This is serious: I know of at least one journalist who had to leave the profession because of the injuries in her hands and arms (OUCH! to the body; OUCH! to the pocketbook.)

I’ve had success with several yoga poses that stretch the tight muscles in my hands and wrists. These poses include: Down Dog, Up Dog, Plank , and yoga-style pushups. I practise yoga on my own and I also attend two group classes each week.

Massage (wrists, arms, hands) also helps a great deal. Rests also works wonders. Once a week, (sundown Friday to an hour after sundown Saturday), I completely unplug from the electronic world in honor of the Sabbath. That low-tech retreat rests my hands for 25 hours and is very therapeutic.

Frequent rests and exercise during the work day also reduce the stress in my hands, wrists and arms. I also adjust my chair and key board so that my wrist are parallel with the keys.

Here is a link to some of the wrist exercises I have used to prevent further injury.

I've also learned to use the computer mouse with both hands. I'm a right-y, but watching me operate the mouse with my left hand has made some people assume that I am a lefty. Being a switch hitter really gives my hands and wrists a break. One of my newspaper editors also uses the same strategy to limit injury.

I’ve avoided expensive and time consuming wrist surgery with my regimen. Please keep in mind that these strategies work for me.But see your doctor or medical expert for treatment.

Here’s a quick rundown of wrist pain from MedlinePlus,
an online resource affiliated with a few government agencies. (see below)*

Common Causes
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of wrist pain. You may feel aching, burning, numbness, or tingling in your palm, wrist, thumb, or fingers. The thumb muscle can become weak, making it difficult to grasp things. Pain may extend up to your elbow.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when an important nerve (called the median nerve) gets compressed at the wrist because of swelling.

Such swelling can occur if you:
• Do a repetitive motion with your wrist like typing on a computer keyboard, using a computer mouse, playing racquetball or handball, sewing, painting, writing, or using a vibrating tool.
• Are pregnant, menopausal, or overweight.
• Make sure that your keyboard is low enough that your wrists aren't bending upwards while you type.


• Take plenty of breaks from activities that aggravate the pain. When typing, stop often to rest the hands, if only for a moment. Rest your hands on their sides, not the wrists.

• An occupational therapist can show you ways to ease pain and swelling and stop the syndrome from coming back.

• Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve pain and swelling.

• Various mousepads, typing pads, split keyboards, and wrist splints (braces) are designed to relieve wrist pain. Some people find these devices help their symptoms. You may wish to try a few different kinds to see if any help.

• You may only need to wear a wrist splint at night while you sleep. This helps reduce the swelling. If that alone is not working, wear the splints during the day and apply hot or cold compresses periodically."

About Medline

*" MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. Preformulated MEDLINE searches are included in MedlinePlus and give easy access to medical journal articles. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news."

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