Another Lesson Learned

Regular readers of this space will remember I along with my husband did some brutal, pressured home renovations in December. By way of reminder I stripped a wallpaper border, TSP’d the walls, applied a tinted primer, then painted 3, or was it 4, coats of deep red on my office walls. I also ripped up carpeting, scraped the glue residue and helped lay laminate flooring. All this in addition to the regular grind and extra prep required to host Christmas dinner for about twenty.

Add to that more time spent at my computer. Because I’m launching an e-commerce business and doing research for another home-based business, I’ve spent more time on the internet in the last three months than in my entire life. Is it any wonder I couldn’t sleep because of hand and wrist pain? My body was paying the price. The unrelenting pain kept me awake, resulted in weakness and discomfort, and drove me to my doctor, chiropractor and finally physiotherapist. And scared the hell out of me. Where would I be without the use of my hands and arms?

Yet again I had misdiagnosed myself. I didn’t have carpal tunnel syndrome but rather tennis elbow in both arms. Through a series of tests and questions, the therapist established a baseline of pain, strength and function. I learned I had a repetitive stress injury or MSD (musculoskeletal disorder) and would require several treatments and a change in attitude and behaviour.

The first thing I did was improve the ergonomics of my workstation. Good chair with adjustable armrests and lumbar support”?check. Footstool (because if my chair is adjusted properly for my work surface my feet don’t touch the floor)”?check. Top of the monitor screen at eye level–oops. With a laptop it’s damn near impossible. Buy a riser. With a riser I can no longer reach the keys. Buy a wireless keyboard and full-size ergonomic mouse–check. Keep the wrists as level as possible when typing while supporting weight of arms on armrests. Keep the mouse nearby to avoid unnecessary stretching. Oh, and only work for about twenty minutes at a time. Stop frequently to do the neck stretching exercises.

Find time to drive 50 minutes each way once or twice a week for therapy and do all the exercises as prescribed every day, several times a day. Begin to understand this condition can realistically take six months to ‘cure.’ There is no quick fix other than changing how I do things and following up with all aspects of the proposed treatment”?physical therapy including ultrasound and exercises, icing the affected areas, doing the exercises, wearing supportive tennis elbow bands when using my arms in a repetitive way.

Take it from me it’s so much easier not to get into this situation in the first place. Check your work station, pace yourself when doing hard, physical or repetitive work and heed warnings from your body. It can’t be ignored from where I sit.