Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's All in the Wrists

I recently had writer’s block for the first time in decades. It was perpetrated by sore hands and wrists, so bad that I was waking up in tears during the night.  Just the idea of writing left me staring at a blank page.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatism runs in my family, so this experience had me more than a little concerned, especially since I already follow a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle.  How would I find even more healthy options, and especially relief from the pain? Painkillers will be my last choice of remedy. I also don’t want to step away from the computer too often, as Helen suggested in her recent post, though that is a good way to get back into typing shape. But weeks at a time can be tough on the pocketbook.

I quickly found the fastest and easiest relief came from heat, especially hot water soaks. My husband was really quite thrilled that I’d taken over doing all the dishes last month! Epsom salt soaks and soothing capcaisin cream (red pepper) also aided tremendously. This kept me going during a blog book tour, because face it, you can’t promote online if you can’t use your keyboard.

I also remember from my jewelry-making days that copper is considered a holistic remedy for arthritis pain. The research on this is mixed. I believe it’s less about the benefits of absorbing the metal, than the fact that copper is a “heat sink”. That means it absorbs and holds heat very rapidly. I have copper wrist cuffs and that is exactly my experience.

However, I don’t find hard metal on my wrists to be very comfortable to wear all day long. I much prefer wool pulse warmers or mitts like these, which I wear daily especially when the weather is cold. They give me more pain relief over the long run than anything else. Wool and silk are the best for holding heat, and nothing beats the softness of alpaca or cashmere. I’ve even taken to collecting different patterns. One of my favorites is this Susie’s Reading Mitts pattern.

What about you? Do you experience hand and wrist pain associated with writing? How do you handle it? Do you have any special techniques to 1. avoid stress and 2. deal with it when it occurs? We’ll share more, including exercise and diet tips, in our ongoing Care and Feed of the Writer series. Shon Bacon is next on Monday with her suggestions for coping.
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Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. She writes, edits, critiques, blogs, and is Special Projects Coordinator for Little Pickle Press, the coolest environmentally-conscious children's book publisher ever. New and intriguing projects are always of interest to her.

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34 comments :

  1. I drink chamomile tea with spearment or green tea, it sooths inflamation of the joints.

    I like your mitts!

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  2. I have what may be the beginnings of carpal tunnel, and often have pain. Where do you find these mitts? Can you buy them already made?

    I use pure therapeutic grade clove oil. One drop on the wrist and rub it in helps with pain. You can get that at rockymountialoils.com

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  3. I've also found that Aspercreme rubbed on the hands and fingers seems to help when I wake up stiff in the morning. The mitts are fabulous, because keeping the hands warm is key.

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  4. Lorna, my double dilemma is that I knit the mitts, which obviously I can't do during a bout of pain. Also, knitting was always one of my back-up moodling activities. Write, knit, write, knit... you see the problem when I can't do either one. I just recently read the chamomile tip - I grow it and the mints and drink green tea daily anyway, so I'm sure that's helping. Later we'll do a post about foods that cause inflammation - like coffee and sugar. So stay tuned! I'll try the clove oil, too... under the gloves sounds loverly!

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  5. I've never experienced finger/wrist pain, but I do have knee pain and other chronic intractable pain. There are topical anti-inflammatories available. The idea is that you can concentrate the anti-inflammatories right where they are needed without exposing your whole system, therefore allowing you to use less and avoid side effects (such as fatigue or sleepiness). One of the best, but very expensive, is topical voltaren (however, one $500 tube looks to last me several years because of the small amount needed!). You can also get topical ketoprofen—you may need to go to a compounding pharmacy and it may require a knowledgeable naturopathic-type doctor to get a prescription. There is also topical lidocaine, which is available without a prescription at 4%. All topical compounds such as the above are absorbed better if you heat the skin first and if they are covered by saran wrap after application. Because of all the meds I'm on, I'm constantly in search of topical pain-relief options to save my liver, kidneys, and stomach. In my experience, your regular doctor will not think to prescribe these things unless you push them to investigate them.

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  6. P.S. Topical voltaren (2%) is available over-the-counter in almost every country in the world except the US. So, next book tour to Canada, stock up. In Canada, it's a very common remedy for osteoarthritis, especially of the knees.

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  7. I have wrist pain after smashing my wrist - heat is best - i use glove wraps like you but I made mine out of socks as I couldn't hold a crochet hook at the time - rubs I use as well and when its to bad I take the painkillers - I know I shouldn't but sometimes - well sometimes I get desperate.

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  8. I know many writers do end up with some wrist and hand pain but I've been spared so far. Hope your wool mittens help.

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  9. Ms.Lurker there are natural anti-inflammatories that are holistic and we'll cover diet in a future post. Two powerful natural remedies are turmeric and fish oil, and regular inclusion in the diet will help tremendously. No harm to internal organs either. Your traditional doctor will not tell you these things. Chinese medicine does address the issues in a more natural way, and we'll talk about acupuncture and Chinese herbs in future posts, too. There are ways and there are ways. :)

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  10. Sorry about the wrist pain, Dani!

    When I had a spate of carpal tunnel pain, I got one of those wrist splints that are available at your neighborhood drug store and wore it while I was typing. I also focused on proper hand position. Your wrists should be held ABOVE the keyboard with the fingers draping down onto the keys versus resting on a pad or the table, causing your wrists to be bent back for your fingers to reach up to the keys.

    I hope you're pain-free soon!

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  11. Ms. Lurker (and not anymore)February 12, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. I don't have any remedies to offer, but I'll keep some of the above in mind for my own wrist and finger problems.

    Since this is likely to be an ongoing problem for you, you might want to think about a speech to text program. From what I've read, Dragon Naturally Speaking is topnotch and can save you an enormous amount of keyboarding. I'll probably be buying it some time in the future when my finances are in better shape.

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  13. Beth, I'm hoping Deb Stover share her hand brace experience with us. I don't have any experience in this regard.

    Yes, I do delete unnecessarily negative comments from this blog. It's my playground and we play nice, even when we have differing views.

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  14. I have poor circulation in my extremities, and my office is chronically too cold, so my wife made me a pair of the fingerless mittens that you show, and they are a real lifesaver.

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  15. Tim, I made a nice cabled manly pair for my husband - he likes them, too. His studio is a converted garage with a wood stove, but it still can get a little chilly in winter. There's a reason people in Nordic lands have used pulse warmers forever - they work! Keep the extremeties warm and it improves overall comfort. I think this is important for children, too.

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  16. My mother has early-onset arthritis, and she says she's had much less pain in her joints since she started taking daily doses of glucosamine. Although from what I read about glucosamine, it doesn't have a noticeable effect on everyone who takes it.

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  17. So sorry about your pain! I'm still getting over a two-year bout of Tendonitis, which forced me to quit music. Omega-3, MSM and collagen supplements helped a lot, but stretching and core exercise finally pushed me back over the top. It's also important to pay attention to your posture and position.

    Hope you get better!!

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  18. These "fingerless gloves" are similar, and they are made in the USA. http://newberryknitting.com/detail.cfm?stylenum=YY55

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  19. Dani, I have been lucky with no pain in my wrists or hands. I do have issues with arthritis in my back and neck and have discovered that moving periodically is the best thing to do. I take a break every hour or two and spend five to 10 minutes doing some stretches, as well as walk around the house or outside. That really helps.

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  20. I had a lot of hand and wrist pain a few years ago, but it seems to be under control now, since I bought a curved ergonomic keyboard iwth a great hand rest. I also have a mouse pad with a cushion on the near side to rest your wrist. Also, I use those wrist braces at night occasionally. You slip your thumb through a hole, then close the rest quickly and hold it in just the right place with velcro. You can also buy heat mitts with heat pads that you put inside them.

    I also have an ergonomic chair with a lower-back pad for support and armrests to support my arms. That helps a lot. And lastly, I don't work on a laptop, as they cause me to get cramped and sore. I work on my PC with the large monitor, and all the other stuff I mentioned.

    Also, I find the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin really does work for me.

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  21. Jodie, I have someone guest posting about hand splints, but you could do a guest post about the keyboard and chair, backpad, etc. With photos. Would you? I think it would be good to see that set-up.

    Maryann, exercise is amazing. Getting on a exer-cycle revs up that oxygen and blood, and odd as it sounds, it relieves the pain in the hands. I'll post more about that down the road.

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  22. Here's a link to some incredibly cute striped alpaca wool mitts for only $28.
    http://bit.ly/woolmitts

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  23. Typing one-handed gives the other hand/wrist a rest for a while. I learnt to do this while breastfeeding at the keyboard.

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  24. Elle, have you figured out voice recognition in Word yet? We could use a future tutorial about that - why don't we use that more often? It all comes with the software and I know enough to know it's pretty user-friendly. Just haven't practiced with it enough.

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  25. I don't have the wrist or finger pain. My knees get stiff from sitting at the computer for a long time, though.

    Love those fingerless mitts you gave the URL for. They're cute and look warm.

    Lots of good advice for pain relief here. Thanks.

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  26. I've had arthritis in my hands years and the pain associated this. Five years ago, I was fortunate enough to come across a natural product that has saved me a lot of grief. I'm going to recommend this product to you and post the link here, but keep in mind that I'm not in any way associated with it. Just trying to be helpful. So check it out for yourself.
    http://www.dailyhealthexaminer.com/hajointformula

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  27. Hi Dani, Sure, I'll be glad to take some photos and write a short piece to go with them.

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  28. Henya, here's another link from Dr. Joseph Mercola that might interest you also as related to the supplements you mention:

    http://products.mercola.com/joint-support/?source=nl

    It'll be interesting to do more research about this!

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  29. On days my hands ache, I stop typing and do a set of hand exercises and stretches that I learned in an exercise class for seniors. Then I use very warm water soaks.

    Our local hospital senior club offers occasional warm paraffin hand treatments on their massage days, and that sounds great too. I'd be afraid to try it on my own for fear of burning my hands.

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  30. When I wrecked my hands fixing several hundred feet of chain link fencing, warm paraffin baths really helped. I find they're marvelous for any type of hand/wrist pain. The temperature is controlled in the unit I have, so there's really no danger of burns. Leaves your skin marvelously soft, too. One used to be able to buy the machines & wax anywhere, but now they're a bit harder to find. Walmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond had them around Christmas time. Don't know about now. Maybe Amazon?

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  31. My husband says fish oil helps with his arthritis. I use my laptop on my knees to prevent a recurrence of my RSI.

    I think, though, the thing that would most help keyboard-related pain - and I have no clue if this is even possible - would be to rearrange the keys! The marvellous Bill Bryson writes that the qwerty layout of the keyboard is a hangover from typewriter days, when the typing needed to be done slowly so as not to tangle the keys; it made the typing harder to do and therefore slowed the typist down. There were intially alternative layouts but qwerty proved the most efficient, and thus, it persists to the modern day when our keys no longer tangle but we need to type fast.

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  32. I use Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software for long passages and first drafts -- after the initial week or two of 'wearing in' (training it to recognise my voice / certain words) I found it quick and fairly effective. It does need an edit, so then I type manually. I work as a writer in my day job, and touch type at speed for hours; during these periods, I wrap fabric plasters around my finger joints by way of support before they start to hurt, and wear them throughout the typing day. I find this helps a lot and my slight-but-constant joint pain has now all but vanished.
    Wrist pain -- I suffered from this for a while due to bad posture/angle -- it was cured by sitting on two cushions.

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  33. My wrists are okay, unless I do some kind of exercises when I lean on them, like sit ups, so I avoid doing any of those exercises.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  34. I must thank all of you ladies on here. I recently had an MRI done at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists on my wrists and am anxiously awaiting the results. In the meantime, I have tried (and continue to try) some of your suggestions to relieve the pain. You all rock! Thanks again.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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