It's 3:00 AM on November 15, 2011. I'm about halfway through my NaNoWriMo novel. The plot is flying along, the characters are all behaving as they should...by my wrists and hands feel like I've just survived an hour in thumbscrews.
It occurred to me then that if I damaged my hands, wrists, and arms permanently, that would be the end of my freelance writing business.
A quick online search gave me a few self-care tips that I wanted to pass on to you. The first thing I learned was that the pain I was feeling was probably caused by any or all of three culprits:
- Repetitive Motions (check)
- Improper Positioning (does sitting cross legged with a cat on my lap count?)
- Staying Too Long in One Position (check)
Now that I knew what was causing the problem, I wanted to know what could be done about it. Again, the Internet obliged with some helpful tips. I don't always remember to follow them to the letter, but when I do, I'm far less likely to experience that annoying pain and numbness.
1. Use an ergonomic mouse and keyboard. The mouse and I made friends right away, but it took me a much longer time to type anything but gibberish on that split keyboard. I finally got used to it, though, and now that I know what I'm doing, I don't want to type on anything else.
2. Don't flex your wrists as you type. Ideally, your hands should hover over the keyboard while you are typing. Since it's not always remember to keep your wrists straight, some of my friends have started using simple braces that you can pick up at a pharmacy. They swear it helps.
3. Take regular breaks. Try to get up and move around once an hour. Not only do breaks give your hands a rest, they also allow you some guilt-free time to get things done around the house.
4. Invest in an adjustable chair. Most office supply stores carry ergonomic chairs that cost less than $100. Since a well-adjusted chair can help keep your body in that all-important "neutral" position, it's worth the money.
5. Don't rest your wrists on the desk, they keyboard, or even a wrist rest. Doing so puts pressure on and irritates your inner wrist and can result in carpal tunnel problems.
6. Do upper body stretches several times per day. Shrug your shoulders and roll them forwards and backwards. Gently extend and flex your wrists. Stretch your fingers by pushing your palms together as if you were getting ready to say a prayer.
7. Get regular massages. Even when money is really tight, I get a professional upper body massage once a month. I also make daily use of an old tennis ball to massage my forearms, wrists, and hands.
What steps do you take to protect your hands and arms?