Update on the Arm

Well, I took the requisite break, and didn’t do any drawing on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I took it easy on Monday.

As far as I can tell, I’ve got two issues — tendonitis in the elbow, and mild carpal tunnel in the wrist. Pencilling doesn’t seem to exacerbate either of them. Painting minis (which I am still on enforced sabbatical from) makes the elbow kind of creaky, mostly because I’m holding the paintbrush and the miniature up close to my face. Inking makes my hand ache a little bit over time (4+ hours of inking), but it has ALWAYS done that, and it’s an issue of gripping too tightly. I’ve actually gotten much better on that front over the years.

The real concern is that using the mouse seems to exacerbate the carpal tunnel. I have a fairly ergonomic setup, but spending any appreciable amount of time pointing and clicking without returning my hands to the keyboard results in a dull ache right in that wrist channel.

The good news is that I’m on much lower dosages of anti-inflammatories than I was a week ago, and the pain is much less noticable than it was.

So… no doctor for me yet. The regimen of rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories seems to be working — I just need more of it. I will be limiting my inking to 3 rows per day three days per week, and I will be taking care to keep the drugs and the ice coming while I’m working. I’m not sure what to do about the mouse issue yet, but two options present themselves: 1) mouse left-handed, and 2) teach my 12-year-old how to do the flood-filling. Oh, and “spend less time surfing the web.”

I’m not posting this to ask for advice, nor to elicit sympathy posts. I’m just posting the promised update. If you feel the urge to nag me about going to see a doctor, please restrain yourself from actually posting your nag. I mean it. I get really, really tired of that.

56 thoughts on “Update on the Arm”

  1. What about using one of those touch pads as opposed to a mouse? I’m not sure but it would seem that it wouldn’t be as phsyically demanding as a mouse.

    1. Touch pads are worse in my experience. Much worse. I tend focus all the movement in my hand, instead of transferring it to the rest of the arm. It’s been a long time since I’ve used a trackball, but if memory serves me right, I gave those up because I couldn’t use them very well with my graphics software.

      What I do is treat my mouse like I am supposed to treat a paintbrush according to my art professors – that it, use it from the shoulder. That way you are using your gross motor skills, instead of your fine ones. It actually does provide more control once you get the skill down.

    2. That would cause both hand and arm movement. A track ball is probably the best solution. Logidreck killed my hands when they went from the mouse the size of my palm to that narrow POS they have now.

      1. I dunno, I have a track ball, and when I recently had to do a marathon comic coloring session, my wrist was still pretty darn sore. Maybe my trackball isn’t a sufficiently ergonomic one.

  2. Not nagging

    I just wanted to mention: I had CT a few years ago. I went to a chiropractor, he adjusted my wrist, and it helped a lot. IF you go to a doctor, and they recommend surgery, see a chiropractor first, and try that treatment.

    Advice can now be sent to /dev/null

    1. Re: Not nagging

      Actually, a physio may be better than a chiro. I once went to a pyshio complaining of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. The problem turned out to be my posture. I made sure to hold my neck straighter and the problem went away.

      Doctors tend to be too obsessed with pathogens, pills and surgery. For internal problems like this, I’d say Physiotherapist For The Win.

  3. The left handed thing can work. I’m right handed, but I use a pointer on the left and now find it awkward to use right handed.

    Something else you might try: a trackball. Not a tiny marble-sized one either, but something at least Logitech “Marble Mouse” (poorly named, the ball is about 1.5 inches diameter) sized. That one can be used right or left handed. So-called ergonomic trackballs are only so for right handed use, which is annoying.

    1. Ah yes, I switched to one of them a few years ago because I was getting pains in my right arm. Soon after I switched, the pains went away. It took me about 2 weeks for the perephiral to become ‘transparent’ but it was well worth it.

  4. Try mousing left handed.

    I do that at home, because I share a computer at work and can’t switch.

    I don’t shift the buttons, though, and I can just shift the mouse to the other side if someone else wants to use my computer.

    1. (snerk!) I do use the left hand, and have switched the buttons..- I call it my “Personal extra security” because anyone else who tries to use it- invariably ends up going “YEEAAAARGH!” >:)

      I switched it years ago because using the mouse on the right- was smacking a nerve bundle against something, and my hand would go totally dead for minutes at a time…

      1. Haha, I like the “Personal extra security.”

        On my computer I have it set to Dvorak keyboard layout, and the physical keyboard has all blank letter keys. (IBM Model – M with the removeable key caps removed.)

  5. I use a regular mouse at work, but a glidepad on the home computer — for me, it’s not carpel tunnel, but repetitive strain injury from riveting aircraft for too many years. I find the glidepad helps, because the wrist is in a different position completely.
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    I use a regular mouse at work, but a glidepad on the home computer — for me, it’s not carpel tunnel, but repetitive strain injury from riveting aircraft for too many years. I find the glidepad helps, because the wrist is in a different position completely. It’s not very good for videogaming, however. Just a thought, for what it might be worth … ;]

  6. This is not sympathy, not advice, nor a nag to get thee to a doctor…

    I mouse left-handed, and have for years. It was done initially because I have better mouse control with my left (left handed), but I realized soon after that I no longer had pain in my right wrist – I have recurrent tendonitis in both wrists, and it seems to aggravate my left less.

    So if you do decide to mouse left handed, good luck! And welcome to the sinister mouse club.

  7. No nagging to go to the doctor from me. Sounds like what you’re doing on your own is working, and why take three hours out of your day and money out of your pocket to have a doctor say “Yeah, ice that, take anti-inflammatories, and rest it”?

    Of course, I haven’t been to a doctor in over five years, so… yeah.

  8. Howard,

    First, glad to hear it’s not hurting as much.. That’s a good sign.. The trick now is to let it KEEP healing… Don’t overdo it.

    I, for one, would rather see Schlock 6 days a week, with a “filler” day, like Sluggy Freelance for a temporary amount of time than see you permanently injure yourself and never see Schlock again.

    Take it easy, man… There’s no need to push yourself so hard. We’ll still be your fans if you take a day off a week. Really. Honest. Just don’t make it permanent (or add days, like that sluggy guy did!)…. ::grin::

    1. I’ve got over 50 days in the inked buffer. I won’t be going to 6 days/week unless something seriously depletes the buffer, and I just don’t see this doing that.

      –Howard

  9. I think people who nag people who aren’t close friends or family are just trying to ignore their own problems by trying to fix other people.

    I have tendenitis and “golfer’s elbow”. Mouse use does bother it as much in my case as using a writing instrument tensely does. I have a series of physical therapy exercises I can do for it and I try to do at least the two simplest on a regular basis to keep my right hand from completely seizing up. Had that happened to the point I couldn’t use my right hand for almost six months.

    I probably should hunt down my exercise sheets and start doing the other exercises more. I guess I need to nag myself.

  10. Apparently mousing is a particular problem from some people because of the way the hand/wrist is twisted to hold the mouse. I’ve seen “vertical mice” (like this one) recommended for such problems. It’s a little pricy on their site ($80) but Amazon has some for under $60 (from third-party sellers), and you may be able to find one used somewhere…

  11. I’ve found it helpful to wear wrist splints (you can even find them at Walmart or a drug store) when CT is flaring. It prevents you from bending your wrist in the way that causes pain/numbness. Good luck!

  12. You could find a keyboard with one of those eraserpoint mice for your surfing. that leaves your hands on the keyboard home row while you move the mouse cursor around. You’d want a real mouse for coloring and for some other things still though.

    1. My experience with TrackPoints is that they’re fine for your wrist, but will absolutely murder either your index or middle finger, whichever you default to using with it. Fingers are not particularly good at applying sideways pressure on a regular basis.

      Once I realised that I was getting pain running down said fingers, I ripped the “nipple” off of my ThinkPad, and forced myself to use the trackpad and an external mouse. The pain went away.

  13. I don’t think anybody’s suggested this yet so here it goes. My husband who is a computer professional always recommends turning down the sensitivity of your mouse pointer speed settings. It makes you move your hand/arm more and might help with your pain. I get ‘gimpy wrist syndrome’ too when I internet too much.

  14. Also … don’t forget prayer. Whenever my pastor offers prayer for healing at the altar rail, I go up for prayer for my hands. It never fails to help.

    I’ll be praying! If only because I want Schlock Mercenary to keep comin’!!

  15. For the mini painting: have you consider using a “third” hand? This could hold the mini for you without putting strain your arms. I think I might have a extra one around here I could send you.

    1. Alternately, consider acquiring a swing-arm magnifying glass (available at many craft stores, generally designed for needlepoint and jewelry work). Then you can hold it farther away while still seeing it up close. I recommend getting one that accepts a standard lamp (most are flourescent) so you can use a true-light bulb.

    2. A third hand might be useful, yes. If you really don’t need it, I’ll cheerfully accept it in return for some artwork from the boneyard. Email me?

  16. Dunno if it will help much with your situation, but I’ve found that Keyboard Shortcuts Are My Friend. 🙂 It makes it much easier for me to spend more hours on the ‘puter with less pain. I also occasionally left-hand mouse, if I’m having an especially tough time.

    this is a cool little book with stretches you can do at your desk. 🙂 They also have software you can install that will nag you to stretch/take a break every so often. 😉

    I’ve evolved some of my own stretches/free-form-yoga, such as Waiting For The Printer, Waiting For Windoze To Reboot, Waiting For Windoze To Shut Down, Waiting… ah heck, you see the pattern. 😉

    Anyway, thanks for the update, and I hope you feel better soon.

  17. I finally broke down and set up things so I use the mouse exclusively with my left hand.

    It took a while to get accostumed, but being realistic, I can do everything else with my left hand. I need my right hand to DRAW.

  18. UGH! You people talking about mousing left-handed is giving me the willies.

    Oh, wait — those aren’t willies. Those are shivers. It’s cold in here.

    Still, though — left-handed mousing… I just don’t trust my left hand enough to give it that kind of power.

    1. I throw with my left hand AND my right hand. I’m pretty sure I’m ambidextrous — I just haven’t bothered to train my left hand for drawing or writing.

      In short, NYAH-NYAH!

      1. My supervisor back at uni was right handed but had taught herself to mouse with her left hand. Made it much easier to do other things like scribble notes while doing mouse things…

        It also makes everyone pause dumbfounded for a moment when they try and use her workstation, since the mouse is in the wrong place.

  19. It’s probably good to switch hands on the mouse as well. Possibly surf with the left hand where you don’t need as much accuracy, and flood fill with the right hand. You may want to switch every so often too, especially as you get used to using your left hand for every day mousing.

  20. Since you won’t see a doctor, I took the liberty of consulting with the Zoyx Physician. The results:

    You probably have a goiter… have you been consuming enough iodine?

  21. Dude, also: NO coloring/shading with a mouse. Coloring with a mouse is what killed my wrist. If I had acquired a tablet sooner, I probably would never have developed carpal tunnel.

    Get a tablet, stat. I know they’re not cheap, but seriously, it pays off.

  22. Been there, done that, bought the second trackball-mouse (Logitech USB w/the big 1.25-1.5″ “marble” ball) so I could swap hands without having to move stuff around or change the settings.

    It is not that difficult to learn to use a mouse with the off-hand. Even if you’re not largely ambidextrous like I am, it’s still just a matter of regular use to build up the fine muscle control. Try starting off with using the mouse just for your regular surfing and things not requiring lots of precision.

    It worked for me, is all I can say. Worked very well. That’s why I’m suggesting it. (trying not avoid sounding all pushy like most people who’ve Got The Answer for you!)

    One of my former bosses has MS and can barely use a mouse to position things — he’s got a neat setup with both a touch-pad and a mouse that he uses both at the same time.

    IME, there’s no real substitute for just getting up and doing something else for a few minutes.

  23. I haven’t been keeping up on the comments, but have you tried a drawing tablet as a mouse? The pen that came with my Wacom tablet is very fat and has a squooshy barrel, which means I can control it almost without squeezing – it really helps when I’m having a bad carpal tunnel day.

  24. A few thoughts on input devices

    A little advice from someone who had problems and doesn’t anymore.

    Use varied input devices. Trackballs are great. Tablets are great. The idea is to work different muscles and allow the worn out parts time to repair while not destroying productivity.

    I’m sure you’ve done everything about making sure you have a good work environment, so I’ll skip those bits.

    I keep 3 different mice and 2 trackball options available. 1 thumb-trackball and one finger-trackball. The 3 mice are just different shapes. I’ve not gotten into tablets. The trackball makes more difference than you’d expect, and they’re pretty darn cheap.

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