Writers have to face many fears, from rejection letters and criticism to never finishing their story or book. All of these are surmountable in various ways, and they’re not always actually real threats.
One thing that is a real threat is carpal tunnel syndrome. While this condition is hardly exclusive to just writers, they do have a significant risk of developing it.
Knowing the signs, treatment, stretches, and other options available is of paramount importance to anyone in the field of writing.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Physiologically speaking, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of pressure being put on your median nerve. This nerve is responsible for the sensations of feeling you have in your thumb and next three fingers.
The median nerve passes through a part of your wrist called the carpal tunnel. This narrow path is made of ligaments and bone tissue. Swelling in the wrist squeezes this tunnel, pinching the median nerve and resulting in the symptoms listed below.
What Are the Common Signs of Carpal Tunnel?
Your doctor and other medical professionals might call carpal tunnel syndrome median nerve compression. While you can identify particular symptoms that might indicate carpal tunnel syndrome, they can also be symptoms of other problems with your hands and arms.
If you suspect carpal tunnel symptoms are taking place in your body, then watch out for the following:
- Early symptoms happen in thumb and next three fingers
- Symptoms might move up the forearm
- Night symptoms usually happen first depending on your sleep position
- Daytime symptoms manifest later during activities with bent wrists
- Fingers might feel swollen but not look like it
- Pain and tingling go all the way to shoulder
- Your thumb and fingers have ‘shocks’
- Weak or numb muscles make you drop things more frequently
- Difficulty working with smaller objects such as shirt buttons
- Making a fist is harder than previously
Medical diagnosis by a physician is required for this before you can move ahead with carpal tunnel syndrome treatment. You can certainly use pain relievers and safe stretches to feel better on your own, but formal treatment only starts with a visit to the doctor’s office in order to rule out other potential problems and conditions. These include but are not limited to:
- Cervical root compression
- Ligament damage
- Wrist injuries including fractures
Repetitive motions and prolonged wrist angles aren’t the only causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. While they’re the most common, other health issues can also result in this condition. Writers who have the following issues should be aware of their elevated risk level:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid issues
- Birth control pills
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel
Once your doctor concludes that your warning signs are in fact carpal tunnel symptoms, they will work with you on carpal tunnel syndrome treatment. Options include:
- Reducing your force
- Changing out your computer mouse
- Relaxing your grip
- Fingerless gloves for warmth
- Taking many short breaks
- Managing underlying conditions
- Managing your form
- Physical therapy
- Improving your posture
Stretches for Carpal Tunnel
If you suspect you have carpal tunnel symptoms, then you can use certain stretches to relieve your condition even before your doctor officially diagnoses to start carpal tunnel syndrome treatment. Try these:
Have the palms of your hands face each other and then have your fingers touch each other at the tips. Point your hands and fingertips downward.
Spread your fingers as widely as you’re able before steepling the fingers. Do this by separating your palms while your fingertips remain in contact.
This stretch relieves the median nerve, the surrounding carpal tunnel structures, and the palmar fascia. Since it’s pointing down, you can do it under a table or desk without coworkers noticing.
The Deep Stretch
Extend one arm to the front of you. Face the palm up. Bend your wrist backward, pointing your hand down toward the floor.
Use your other hand to gently bend the first wrist even more, until you feel the stretch happening in your forearm.
Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times.
Shake It Off
This one is perhaps the easiest. Just shake your hands as if you just washed them and are trying to get them to air dry.
Doing this for just a moment or so on an hourly basis relieves cramping and tightness in your median nerve and flexor muscles.
This is easy to work in if you just wash your hands more frequently anyway, which is a great idea on its own.
Doing this while listening to or humming Taylor Swift is up to you.
Options Specific to Writers Who May Have Carpal Tunnel
Writers who spend a lot of time using keyboards typing should consider specific options that can help them either prevent or manage carpal tunnel syndrome. They include the following:
- Wrist Splints: Using a splint to immobilize the wrist from even bending is a very successful way to physically deal with carpal tunnel and give your wrist a break. It might come with the downside of typing slower, but it’s still possible to get work done without the pain.
- Ergonomic Keyboards: Ergonomic input devices, be it keyboards or mice, should help your wrists stay in better positions that help them function healthily for a long time to come. If you spend a lot of time on a laptop, then an ergonomic keyboard may not be of much help, but it can with desktops and even some tablets. Ergonomic mice are always an option.
- Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse Pads: If you don’t want to change your keyboard and mouse, you can get a keyboard and mouse pad that elevate your wrists to straighten them.
- Speech Recognition Software: If you’re a writer, then you love your written words over the sound of your own voice. Yet, speech recognition software has come a long way. You can spare your wrists completely. Many writers who make the switch find they writer faster after time.
- New Furniture: Part of keeping your wrists straight when typing is having the right posture and being level. Your desk or table surface might need to come up or down, and your chair can do the same thing.
Anyone who does work or activities involving repetitive wrist movements is at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Having said that, writers are at higher levels of risk than most other occupations. Leaving this condition untreated can result in permanent nerve damage, physical disability, and loss of finger or hand function, although these possibilities are rare.
Knowing the causes and warning signs is a good start, but knowing when and how to get treatment, along with other options specific to writers, is the best way of keeping the words flowing.