Repetitive 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.
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
- 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.
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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. Consider 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…