Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A freelance writer's occupational hazard

I've mentioned on my blog before that I have the occasional problem with repetitive strain injury in my wrists.  I haven't had it happen since around Christmas 2008, when I caused myself some major wrist pain by spray painting a kiddie table as a Christmas gift for my nephews.  Occasionally I'll feel the initial twinges of a problem, but I'm usually able to prevent any significant problems by reminding myself to move around, stretch, and change my position a little more often.

Perhaps a week ago, I started noticing some major twinges in my left wrist.  I thought it was due to the abrupt change in our weather — I was also feeling some soreness in the knee I injured falling off my horse a little over a year ago, and I assumed all the rain was making past injuries achy again.

The ache in my knee went away, though, and the pain in my wrist only spread up into my elbow.  Oops.

It's my left elbow, which has been giving me problems off and on for years.  It started bothering me in college, when I would rest my left elbow on the desk while I browsed the Internet, sometimes for hours.  It actually started messing with my nerves or something, because I would get pain and numbness radiating down into my hand sometimes.

I had to stop myself from resting my elbow on the desk, but lately I've been doing it again.  I've also been frequently propping my chin on my left hand or playing with my hair (a bad habit of mine) while I read, which means that my elbow is frequently bent.  I think that may have something to do with the current pain I am experiencing in my left wrist and elbow — I must be pinching the nerves.

When I first started freelancing full-time, I developed my worst case of repetitive strain injury from a day of using the mouse for hours and hours, looking for markets and editing some photos for an article I was writing.  The pain afterward lasted for days, if not weeks, and radiated from my wrists all the way up into my shoulders.  It took a lot of ibuprofen and heating pads to get through that — I found that using a heating pad on my wrists while I typed during the day, and keeping one on my shoulder or upper arm in the evening, helped keep me from making anything worse, and helped me be better rested when I began work the next morning.

So that's the approach I'm taking now.  Yesterday I had to take ibuprofen several times, so today I broke out the heating pad.  I've spent the day working on the couch, with my laptop on my lap (a more comfortable angle for my arm), a pillow under my forearm, and the heating pad wrapped around my elbow.

What about you?  Do you have any funny little aches and pains that plague you sometimes, or do you remind yourself to get up and move around regularly to avoid them?  We all have our favorite remedies for recurring injuries or aches — what are yours?


Lori said...

Here's a weird one - I now work with my mouse on the left side of the keyboard. My right shoulder was absolutely killing me for such a long time. I tried weight lifting to strengthen it, I tried readjusting, a footstool, a wrist pad, you name it. Then I taught myself how to use the mouse with the other hand. Boom. Fixed. It's because of those extra rows of keys on the right side - the reach is just too much.

Katharine Swan said...

Lori, my husband keeps his mouse on the left at work too -- he also found that the angle when he kept it on the right caused him a lot of shoulder pain. I have a laptop, so I don't have the extra reach -- must be why I haven't had a problem with it since early on in my freelancing career.

After using a heating pad for much of the day on Wednesday, the pain in my left elbow and wrist was pretty much gone. I've been keeping myself from resting my elbow on the desk while I read or surf as much as possible, and so far I haven't had any recurring problems. Hopefully that little flare-up is over!


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