Jan 082010
 

How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Writers and Computer GeeksRepetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the repetitive motion of typing on a keyboard. Writers, bloggers, anyone who uses a computer every day — if you recognize the symptoms of carpal tunnel, you can (and should!) prevent it.

Here are a few tips for avoiding the strain and injury caused by typing on a computer keyboard or laptop.

My mother-in-law had surgery to ease her painful carpal tunnel symptoms next week – and she’ll be out of commission for six weeks! I can’t imagine not being able to work for that long, and am on an carpal tunnel syndrome rampage.

Here’s one way to avoid carpal tunnel for writers and bloggers: if you daydream, think, write, or blog in your head, don’t just stare off into space. Grab a soft stress ball or a Handmaster hand and wrist exerciser to stretch your hand and wrist muscles while relieving pressure from repetitive motion of typing.

Resources for Writers

Here are the causes, symptoms, and treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome…

Causes of Carpal Tunnel for Writers

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is increased pressure on the median nerve and tendons on the outside of the wrist. According to Body and Health Canada, the exact cause of carpal tunnel can’t be determined because it’s usually a combination of things that causes increased pressure on the wrist.

Factors that contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • repetitive movements of the hand or wrist
  • trauma or injury to the wrist
  • certain medical conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, low thyroid, diabetes)
  • cysts or tumours
  • pregnancy
  • frequent use of vibrating hand tools
  • having wrists too small for all the ligaments and nerves to fit properly

Writers and bloggers (and all computer users) may be at a greater wrist of developing carpal tunnel because of the repetitive movements of typing and keyboarding.

Signs of Carpal Tunnel or Repetitive Strain Injury

  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers.
  • Loss of feeling in thumb, index, and middle finger.
  • Hands falling asleep.
  • Aching shoulders and neck.
  • Pain radiating up forearm.
  • Hand and/or wrist pain.
  • Poor circulation in hands, wrists, and fingers.
  • Loss of hand grip strength.
  • Clumsiness of hands; dropping items.

It’s extremely important for writers and professional bloggers to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome – especially if they want to make a living from writing!

6 Ways to Prevent Carpal Tunnel for Writers

Here’s one of the best ways writers can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome: use voice recognition software! Here are a few tips for using Dragon Naturally Speaking, from Sharon Hurley Hall.

1. Use a mouse – or stop using your mouse. I write on a laptop, and never used an external mouse until the tingling and numbness in my fingers started to unnerve me. Now, I use an external mouse as much as possible; it’s like a massage for my wrist and the meaty part of my thumb. To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, change your hand, wrist, and finger position as much as possible. Use different types of mouses and keyboards.

2. Take frequent breaks. Every hour, take a few minutes to walk around your office or home. Shake out your hands, stretch them above your head, dangle them near your feet. Get the blood flowing! Give your hands, wrists, and fingers a break from the repetitive motion of typing. Just like breaking any bad writing habit, incorporating “stay healthy” breaks takes time and effort — but it becomes part of your day.

3. Get exercise that involves your hands and arms. My exercise break is at 11 am every day; I do an hour-long home-based workout that’s effective, inexpensive, and fun (I have seven different 10 Minute Solutions DVDs, and have toned up and lost over 15 pounds because of them – read Healthy Writers Are Happy Writers! 5 Fitness Tips for Writers for more info). To avoid repetitive strain injury, don’t just run or cycle to stay fit. Do exercise that actually uses your arms, hands, and fingers.

4. Consider ergonomic desk chairs, keyboards, etc. If you have ergonomic office equipment, use it. I used to shrug off the idea of buying good office furniture and equipment because I thought it was a luxury, but now I realize that protecting my health for the long term is a necessity, not a luxury!

5. Do specific exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. There are dozens of great exercises for carpal tunnel and I can’t list them all here, but I found several excellent sources of info. One of the best is the University of Maryland Medical Center’s How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Can Be Prevented.

6. How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Writers and Computer GeeksConsider wrist support. Similar to a knee brace, a carpal tunnel  wrist brace can support your hands and wrists. This type of brace can ease the pressure on your finger and thumb muscles, which may reduce the chances you’ll struggle with carpal tunnel as a computer user. Whether a brace works depends on your hands and arms, the position they’re in all day, and your specific type of strain. But, they may be worth a try – this might be a good product to share with a coworker or family member who also writes or blogs a lot (or  spends a lot of time on the computer).

Fellow scribes, don’t wait until your wrists or hands are sore before you think about carpal tunnel syndrome. Take care of your hands — they’re your second-best source of income (after your brain, of course!).

If you don’t feel healthy or fit, read 7 Health Tips for Writers Who Don’t Get Enough Exercise.

And if you have any tips for avoiding or treating carpal tunnel for writers, please comment below…

About Me

quips tips love relationshipsI'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello and share your thoughts below. If not, go well....and don't forget to come back! :-)

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  21 Responses to “How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for Writers and Computer Geeks”

  1. Jordan,

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom…that’s too bad. I hope she recovers from her surgery in less than three weeks!

    Laurie

  2. Yeah, my mom was diagnosed with carpal tunnel, she’s not a writer but she types as a receptionist all day. She has to have surgery. She didn’t know all the typing would cause so many problems, and now wishes she could have prevented it. She’ll be out of commission for at least three weeks after surgery, they think.

  3. Thanks for your tips for computers users — I can totally see how they’d help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

  4. The best way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is to prevent it from happening! If you use your wrist and fingers a lot, take the following precautions:

    * Shake out your wrists gently for about 10 seconds.
    * Rotate your wrists gently – 5 times clockwise, 5 times counter-clockwise.
    * Hold your arm straight in front of you, palm facing outward. Use the other hand to gently pull back your fingertips. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat with the other arm.

  5. Hi Maha,

    I think carpal tunnel affects one hand or wrist more than the other, because of the way you use that specific hand. So, perhaps you use your right hand differently, such as by typing more letters or using the mouse. Or, perhaps you use your right hand in different ways outside of typing on the computer, which could make carpal tunnel syndrome worse.

    Have you gone to the doctor? Maybe it’s time to get a check up…

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  6. Hi,

    I had the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my sixth month of being pregnant. I thought it was because of my way of sleeping were I bent my wrist really hard to put my hand under my chin. Yet, ever after 19 months now since my son was born, I still can’t write my first full name. I think now I realized it’s because of my study on the Computer.

    If that’s true .. then why can am I still able to grip the pencil with my left hand and have the weakness on the right one only ?

    P.S: I use both hands for typing on keyboard.

    Thank you,

  7. Wow, Juanita, it must be very challenging to have carpal tunnel syndrome as a writer! I hope your doctor has given you a good treatment — because it’s not easy to live and work with. Wishing you all the best with it.

  8. I recently discovered that I have carpal tunnel syndrome but interestingly, it was not caused by my making a living as a writer. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I did a lot of industrial machine operations, some of them in the garment industry. Apparently, the repetitive motion of hemming blue jeans and other garments had laid the groundwork for something that was not even known as carpal tunnel syndrome back then.

    It all came to a head a few years later when I began to do some freelance writing on the side. I noticed that my wrists would go numb after a time or my fingers would begin tingling. Even when I would take a break, I would occasionally have trouble hanging onto things, like cigarettes or a can of soda. A simple test, called a Tinel’s Sign done at the doctor’s office confirmed that it was carpal tunnel syndrome.

  9. Thanks, Lynette, for letting us know about the Carpal Roller.

    I just got a massage yesterday, and found that my wrists, thumb, and hands are much more relaxed and loose! Regular massage is a great way to overcome carpal tunnel syndrome, I think.
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How to Make Good Comments on Blog Posts =-.

  10. We have developed a new product for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
    We are currently involved with a case study, which is showing great success. We have seen improvements with Carpal Tunnel Symptoms within a few weeks of using the Carpal Roller. For more information you can click my name to go to our website.

  11. Interesting — I hadn’t thought of using the external mouse with my left hand! That’s a great idea, and I can totally see how it would reduce the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome — it gives your right hand a much-needed break!

    I think I’ll try it. Also, using your left hand for such a primary task is good for your brain (neurobics, doncha know!).

    Thanks for the tip.

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How to Make Conversation for Introverts – Tips for Small Talk =-.

  12. I’m right-handed and two years ago I switched to using an external mouse with my left hand.

    It takes a few weeks to get used to it, but overall the switch has greatly reduce pain I was feeling in my right hand.

  13. Valuable thoughts, thank you.
    Taking breaks to move is very important, not just for the body, for the spirit and mind as well.
    .-= Grants´s last blog post ..Music School Grants =-.

  14. Thanks for your input on carpal tunnel syndrome for writers!

    Susan, I’m glad you’re pain-free — thanks for the tip on the wrist wand.

    And I agree, K.M….your comment reminded me of the “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” quip :-)

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..6 Tips for Running on the Beach – Exercising in Maui =-.

  15. As someone who suffers a repetitive stress injury in my wrist, as the result of too much mouse work, I can’t stress enough the importance of prevention. You can save yourself so much pain and stress if you practice good habits from the very beginning.
    .-= K.M. Weiland´s last blog post ..Why Word Count Goals Can Be Destructive =-.

  16. A couple years ago I had severe carpal tunnel symptoms. Nothing seemed to help.

    Eventually, out of desperation, I went to a physical therapist who suggested I do stretches/exercises with something called a wrist wand. I tried them skeptically, doubted such a low-tech, inexpensive solution could do anything. Much to my surprise, the exercises worked.

    Within about a week, I was pain-free and have been ever since. A couple times a day, I pull out my little wrist wand and do the exercises.

    I got the wrist wand, which is really just a small bar, from http://www.wristwand.com. It comes with directions on how to do the wrist exercises. Cost is roughly $25.

  17. Thanks for your tips, everyone!

    Speech recognition software is a great way to take the pressure off your wrists and hands, which could definitely reduce the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome. Have you tried it, anyone? How does it work?

    Lisa, that’s interesting that most of the keys we use are on the lefthand side of the keyboard…and yet it’s my right hand that’s feeling the effects of repetitive strain! I think it’s not typing as much as using my laptop’s mousepad. It forces my hand and wrist into an awkward, unnatural position. I’m sure that’s where my problems lie — which is why the external mouse is so good.

    Chris, I love the “EyeRelax” idea — that’s a great way to take a break! Love it.

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..6 Tips for Running on the Beach – Exercising in Maui =-.

  18. I use a free program called EyeRelax which makes my computer screen go black for one minute every hour. Makes me get up and walk around.
    .-= Chris´s last blog post ..Tech Tip–Review of Financial Programs =-.

  19. Great post and good tips!

  20. Great advice. I believe that extensive typing on the non-ergonomic Qwerty keyboard causes quite a bit of problems. If you notice, your hands/wrists don’t line up and since most of the letters we use when we type on this keyboard are on the left-hand part of the keyboard…well, ouch!

    I’d love to get an ergonomic Dvorak keyboard to not only line up my wrists properly and not strain them but also to balance out the use of fingers on both hands. Some day…just hope after over 30 years of typing on Qwerty, I’ll be able to learn the Dvorak key placement quickly. lol
    .-= Lisa (lablady)´s last blog post ..Happy New Year! Win, win, WIN in 2010! =-.

  21. Great tips; one more is to use speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, MacSpeech or the built in one in Windows, to save your wrists and hands. I’ve been using Dragon recently and it really makes a difference.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog post ..Dragon NaturallySpeaking Review =-.

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