What IS this pain in my arms?

Okay, I just finished a journal entry, and my forearms hurt. Both of them. The pain is along the outside edge about halfway between hand and elbow. And I just realized that they’ve been hurting all day, pretty much whenever I type.

Is this carpal tunnel? I’m gonna be SO pissed off…

16 thoughts on “What IS this pain in my arms?”

  1. Carpal tunnel it is not — that is damage and inflammation in the channel through the wrist that ligaments pass through.

    But watch out; if this gets worse, you should see a doctor straightaway. Look up “angina” in a medical dictionary; there are other symptoms. And follow recommendations that you find; play it safe.

    Best wishes.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

    1. I am not a physician. I’m not even a paramedic any more. This is not medical advice. See your doctor if you think I have even a small chance of being full of prunes, or want real medical advice.

      That said, I’d be surprised if the symptoms Howard describes, in the absence of anything else such as shortness of breath or unusual fatigue, are cardiac in origin. I’m not going to say it’s impossible, as angina is notorious for presenting in weird and wonderful ways. I would, however, look at other factors first, such as the ergonomics of the workstation.

      I will agree, however, that if the symptoms persist or worsen, that a visit to the doctor is appropriate. Pain of unexplained origin is a bug. It’s the body trying to tell you something’s wrong. Especially for someone who uses his arms as much as Howard does, and in as many different ways, it’s an indication of a potential or real problem that needs to be corrected. (If your arms hurt, you won’t want to draw.)

      1. Indeed, and I concur. But of the range of possible sources of the pain — particularly both forearms without his obvious recollection of muscle strain engendering this — some possibilities are more urgent than others. I suggest eliminating the urgent ones as likelihoods.

        Of course, we’d all agree that Mr. Tayler not being able or inclined to draw is a crisis. ];-)

        ===|==============/ Level Head

        1. Okay, it’s NOT angina

          The ONLY symptom is arm pain, BOTH arms, and it’s only there when my hands are rotated for typing on a regular old keyboard (laid out for Dvorak, but that doesn’t change wrist position — just the “distance” my fingers walk each day).

          In short, It Only Hurts When I Type.

          1. Re: Okay, it’s NOT angina

            Get one of the curved “Natural” keyboards. It made all the difference for me. For years, I’d blamed my chronic wrist pain on an accident from my Coast Guard days.

            When I got a system that came with a Microsoft Natural KB, the pain went away. I didn’t make the connection until an errant liquid spill forced me to switch back to a square keyboard. After less than a WEEK, the pain that had vanished for more than a year came back.

            I’m on my third Natural KB (and if I stopped drinking at the computer, I’m sure they’d last MUCH longer). My wrists feel great — though I find I have to chamge my pointing devices around every so often, because my mouse-wrist sometimes gets achy.

            (And yeah, I think it probably is a carpal precursor. The pain STARTS in the wrists, shoots up the arms, and eventually, the inflammation gets severe enought to compress the nerve.)

          2. Re: Okay, it’s NOT angina

            Indeed. I’ve been using ergo keyboards for about eight years now, and they really DO help one’s arms a lot. It keeps the wrists from being turned too much in one direction or another, reduces the amount of distance my wrists are forced to move to get my hands into an optimal position to hit a key, and I don’t really notice any pain these days. Unlike some of the other people who’ve used the old-fashioned, typewriter-style keyboards anyways. I’d also suggest exercises which concentrate on building up wrist strength, along with stretches every half-hour to forty-five minutes, for just a minute or two, to avoid RSI.

          3. Re: Natural keyboards

            IMHO, the best of the “conventional” ergonomic keyboards is the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. I have two of them myself, and the only reason I don’t have a spare as well is I couldn’t spare the money. (Yes, that’s right, you just saw me recommend a Microsoft product. See the ticket booth for reserved seating for the Apocalypse.)

            There’s just one catch: Microsoft doesn’t make them any more. This means if you want one, you’ll have to look for one on eBay. However, if you want an ergonomic keyboard and don’t want to go to one of the more radical designs, this is the one to get. It’s by far the best of all the Microsoft “Natural” keyboards. It’s not as festooned with redundant idiot buttons as the Multimedia keyboards, and the keyboard layout is better than the Elite series.

            Expect to pay $40 to $80 for one in good condition, more if it’s new-in-box. But it’s worth it. If I could ask any computer manufacturer in the world to bring just one discontinued product back to market, this would be the one.

          4. Re: Okay, it’s NOT angina

            I can’t agree enough. Except for the whole Microsoft Natural thing. I *hate* Microsoft keyboards. I hate the layout, and I despise the keyfeel.

            I’ve been using a Lite-On ergonomic keyboard that I picked up used about 10 years ago. It shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. And I’ve spilled drinks in it too.

            The keyfeel is crisp (but not as crisp as the ancient IBM PS/2 keyboards, you know the ones that weighed 50lbs and went *CLICK!!!!* when you pressed a key?) and the layout is great with the large L-shaped ENTER key and a double-wide backspace, it also has an extra tab and an extra backspace in the middle of the keyboard (which I’ve very rarely used). I can’t recommend them enough.

            Yes, you should definitely get an ergo keyboard. I too was having arm pain with a straight keyboard, and haven’t hurt since I switched to an ergo. I’ve got an extra Lite-On in storage that I can bring to Fandemonium if you want, (email me) so you can take it home and try it out.

          5. Re: Okay, it’s NOT angina

            I’m pleased to hear it! Well, but still hoping that you will achieve a surcease of pain in any event.

            But Dvorak! What’s wrong with the layout that Dr. Scholl was commissioned to design to be as slow as possible?

            ===|==============/ Level Head

    2. Recollections of Athletic Training classes . . .

      You mentioned you and your brothers playing disc golf when you went to see Grandma . . . I don’t know what your release throw is like, but it does involve the muscles you mention . . . and did your shoulder injury require you to alter your throwing style in any way to compensate for the pain there? It may not be carpal tunnel, but it probably *is* some type of repetitive strain injury.

      The guys are right, though . . . if the pain persists, at all, hie thee to a physician.

      1. Re: Recollections of Athletic Training classes . . .

        I thought about that, and am pretty sure that’s not it.

        It MIGHT be that I spent a day hauling luggage around. Usually I check bags, but this time I had a pair of heavy carry-ons.

        I just bought an ergonomic keyboard. It feels a bit better. We’ll see if it helps at all.


  2. carpal? No?

    Well I was gonna jump right in and say “probably yes” but these two gentlemen (why I’m assuming that, I don’t know) have made me hesitate.

    The reason I was ready for such an automatic yes is that you described EXACTLY the pain that I periodically get in my arms/hands/elbows. My doctor (actually several doctors over the course of about four years) has told me that this is an early symptom of carpal tunnel.

    There are a few things I have found that have helped lessen the pain and keep it away longer in between surges (Standard “not a doctor” disclaimer goes here).

    1) Aikido. Yeah, martial arts. For some reason the practicing of a martial art which focuses on the wrists, elbows and shoulders helps to build up a bit of nerve resistance so the pain doesn’t show up as often or as badly. This’ll take time and money and I’m pretty sure you’re short on time. Maybe not practical, but it might be something to keep in mind.

    2)Those little squeezey exercise things. Like a spring with two handles that you squeeze in your hand. Not sure what (if anything) these do to help, but when I use them when I’m not typing I’ve found that the pain doesn’t come back as often. Note that doing this WHILE you’re having the pain, hurts like all holy heck.

    3)Ibuprofen. This is another “when it hurts” thing. I’ve found a few tablets help to take the edge off the pain. This is kinda common sense but helps quite a bit.

    4)I’ve found that stretching my arms, back, and hips has helped keep the pain in my arms down to a minimum. My theory involves pinched nerves, but it could be a number of things. In general I just feel all around better when I keep up with frequent stretching.

    Anyhow, I have no idea if any of this would/will/has helped you, but it’s what help I have to offer. Hope you figure it out and feel better soon.


  3. FWIW I have had similar pain in the past – it turned out that I had tendonitis, not carpal, but they’re both repetitive stress injuries. I advise you to chat with a doc; they can probably give you a much better idea and some things you can do about it (anti-inflammatories, stretching exercises, wrist brace, etc).

  4. I get that sensation from time to time, but usually only in one arm. It usually means I’ve A) strained my wrist/fingers (the muscles that run your wrist and fingers are in your forearm) or B) been using the mouse in an odd position for a while. In my case it hurts all the time but gradually fades–I think it’s just a cramp.

  5. I don’t know if you get messages mailed to you from your LJ, but here goes…

    My husband is a programmer. One thing he’s found helps a lot with stopping pain in his arms (and back) is swapping his mouse hand, so he uses the mouse left handed even though he’s quite strongly right handed. There is a logical reason for this.

    Pre-mice, keyboards were laid out so that the main part was in front of the typist, and the number pad was placed conveniently for the right handed to reach a short way over to. Now, with the addition of mice, the same layout means that using the mouse right-handed either a) the keyboard is pushed to the left so the typist is now using it at a slight angle, or b) the main part of the keyboard is still central but the the mouse is uncomfortably far to the right. Using the mouse left-handed means the sequence goes mouse – main part of keyboard – number pad, evenly spaced.

    And, while my other half has been doing this for years on his own, there’s also published research supporting left-handed mouse use (or number pad-less keyboards).

    Of course, if you’re left handed anyway, like me, none of this will help at all.

    (BTW, if you’re wondering who I am, I’m the mad woman who feedbacked for the CSI parody and offered to bear your entirely unnecessary extra children in exchange for a sequel 🙂

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