7 Tips and Tools to Relieve Carpal Tunnel and Repetitive Motion Pain While Working From Home
Not long after I had my 4th child, I suffered from horrible hand pain. It lingered in my fingers, mostly in my joints, and I became frustrated after my doctor couldn't find or diagnose anything specific. I went to months of occupational therapy with no help. Then, after 2 years, the pain went away.
After my 5th child was born, the pain came back. This time, it was mild when I wasn't typing or doing something repetitive with my hands (such as sewing or writing). It became unbearable when I would sit for any length of time and type. Even clicking the mouse caused me numbness and pain in the same areas I had experience before.
I tried a number of solutions, some with no results. Others, however, did wonders for my pain. Whether you suffer from wrist, shoulder, finger, or hand pain -- if it is worsened with you work at your desk, these tips and tools may help you, too.
1. Breaking up your work. You shouldn't be sitting at your desk for longer than 20 minutes at a time anyway. It's bad for your back, eyes, and your waistline. By setting a small timer (I prefer Online-Stopwatch), you can set up mini sessions of work and then get up and give your body (and painful areas) a break.
2. Invest in a dictation tool. On days when my pain was REALLY bad, I couldn't type or even click with a mouse. I turned to Dragon Naturally Speaking (and the included microphone headset) to speak my words into typed blog posts, emails, and even web searches! The software can seem pricey, but there are other useful ways to put it to good use. We also picked Dragon Naturally Speaking as a must-have tool for the breastfeeding work-at-home mom!
3. Use your tablet. Since swiping and pinching use different hand muscles than clicking and dragging, it's nice to change up the pace by checking emails and social media accounts from your iPad or Android.
4. Get a new mouse. The biggest change in my pain levels occurred when I traded in my traditional mouse for an ergonomic model. At over $50, it's pricey, but within 2 days of using it, I had 90% less pain in the "clicking" finger of my right hand. Be sure you choose the appropriate model for your hand size, and remember that it takes a day or two to learn how to use this new mouse!
5. Warm it up. The warmth of a heated mouse or mousepad can help keep muscles loose, especially during the cold months. You may also find that fingerless office gloves can keep blood moving through your extremities, which can prevent numbness and tingling in already stressed joints and digits.
6. Cool it down. Conversely, when you are not typing, it's nice to cool down with an ice pack or a product like BioFreeze Gel. When applied directly to the skin of the painful areas, it will provide non-burning, cooling relief that can help you work through your most difficult flare-ups.
7. Go natural. There are many natural pain relief products on the market, but I've found those made from turmeric or curcumin to be the most effective. Recently, I started buying Curamin for myself and my husband. While I don't need to take as many daily, I still stay on a light regimen to help with any inflammation flare-ups.
These are just the ones that have helped me personally, and - like most things - it has been a trial and error process to find relief. As of now, however, I'm seeing many days with no pain, and only a few where I need to rest my hands after working too long. What tips can you share with our readers about ways you've alleviated carpal tunnel and repetitive motion pain?