Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
The New Computer Health Threat
By Cassandra Ward
©2001, Cassandra Ward
to ergonomics, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is often considered to be a thing of
the past. We now have to worry about something even more insidious afflicting
our hands as we do computer work: tendonitis.
like CTS, is an ailment that comes from repetitious motions over a period of
time. Many people are getting tendonitis from mousing as well as keyboarding.
This is a potentially serious disability, and can put you out of work and cut
your off from a normal life for years.
1990 (when CTS was the rage), I was a records clerk for a major university
hospital. My job was to file lab results into charts. I averaged 300
reports/hour, five nights a week. I started the job in May. By the end of July,
I was having mild tingling in my wrist and slight weakness when I tried to grip
small things with my right (dominant) hand. I ignored it. By the beginning of
October, pain arced from my wrist into my hands and all the way up to my
shoulder. I took a lot of over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers to keep going. (I
was a single mother of two kids under the age of three at the time.) By the
beginning of November, I could no longer hold anything in my right hand and was
in such pain, I cried constantly. It felt as if someone had laced my wrist and,
to a lesser extent, my arm (all the way back beyond the shoulder) with molten
steel that would never cool. The OTC painkillers brought no relief. It took me
almost three hours to write out my rent check for all the pain and tears.
was finally diagnosed in February í91 with DeQuervains Tendonitis
(inflammation of the major tendon in the thumb). They finally took me off work
and I was on workersí compensation for three years until my hand could
my history proves, itís very easy to overlook the little pains as something
that just happened that day. Itís a dangerous mindset to get into even though
itís a very common one.
is a single muscle in the hand, located at the base of the thumb. The remainder
of your hand is completely moved by tendons. Thatís it: tendons. Thus, getting
an inflamed tendon in your hand is a serious matter.
heard people say that theyíre afraid they have CTS. Thereís a couple quick
checks you can do yourself to see if you have CTS or DeQuervains Syndrome.
the pain originate in the center of your wrist (palm side)? Do your fingers
tingle and/or go numb? If yes to either, especially the second question, then
you most likely have CTS. The Carpal Tunnel is the area where 3 of the 4 nerves
in your hand go through the wrist joint at the center of the palm. (The other
runs up along the pinkie side.) If you have an inflammation of that area, the
nerves are likely to be pinched and you can temporarily lose sensation there.
a test for tendonitis: Bend your thumb into your palm and grasp it with your
fingers. Next, bend your wrist toward the pinkie side as far as you can. If you
have pain in the wrist tendons, then you most likely have DeQuervainís.
take a few moments, several times in your day, to be aware of your hands and
wrists. The sooner you deal with discomfort, the sooner you can tend to it. If
you do not become aware of it, or ignore it as I did, you can drive yourself to
the point of intense, constant pain and having your hand become completely
useless. While there is surgery for this condition, I did not qualify for it.
Thus, I am still sporadically suffering from it today, more than a decade later.
The doctors assure me that I will have this condition for the remainder of my
life and I am now legally disabled under the ADA laws. (For more information on
you start having pain in your hands that could be tendonitis, there are a few
things you can do.
call and make an appointment with your doctor or, if this is work related, get
down to your employerís clinic as soon as possible.
stop doing the activity thatís causing the pain as soon as youíre aware of
it. If itís an activity you have to continue doing, find a different way of
doing it: for instance, mouse with the other hand or get a track ball.
apply an ice pack to the area thatís hurting for 15-20 minutes. (Note: a bag
of frozen peas works marvelously for thisódonít eat them after youíve used
them, however.) Ice reduces the swelling caused by the inflammation, and
decreases the pain faster and healthier than taking OTC pain killers.
if you can get one, put a splint on your hand. If you are having pain anywhere
connected with your thumb, it is important to get a thumb-spica splint (meaning
that the thumb is immobilized). These are best fitted by a doctor. It is
possible to purchase thumb-spica splints yourself; however, the cost runs from
$35-60 plus shipping and handling. I have never seen a thumb-spica splint for
sale in stores and the wrist-spica splints you will find there will not help
and surprisingly last, is to take drugs. Over the years, I have been on assorted
medications for the condition. I also built up a tolerance for several of the
drugs, meaning I had to take nearly lethal doses to get an inkling of relief.
This is something that needs to be monitored closely by your doctor. Please be
aware of the amounts you are taking at any time, and ask your doctor if you have
any concerns or questions about medications.
is possible to come back from crippling tendonitis and work, type and function
again. Iíve had to make a lot of adjustments on how I use my hand (holding
pens, carrying things, handling thin objects, etc.). Ten years ago, my doctor
said that Iíd be crippled for life and would have to learn to be left-handed.
Today, not only am I still right-handed, but I also hold down a full-time office
job, continue to write, and have even learned to use chopsticks. However, while
it is possible, I can also assure you that I cried a lot of tears, considered
self-mutilation too seriously on too many occasions, and wasnít sure any of it
was going to work out in the end.
care of your hands, for without your hands, how will you take care of yourself?
more information on DeQuervainís Syndrome, see: http://www.2ndopinionstore.com/pop/dequervains.htm