Occupational Hazards

I have the soft smooth hands like those of the Victorian aristocracy. In any other day and age, one might touch my hands and say these are certainly not the hands of a peasant, but those of a refined lady. Today, my hands just tell the same story as many others’ – I work at a computer and spend my day mousing and typing rather than farming or laundering sheets. I know I’m lucky to be in such a position – I would not make a good laborer.

However, despite my good fortune to be born into a time and place where I can have a job that involves sitting on my butt and making stuff, I still suffer from occupational hazards. To be fair, I’m not going to get my leg caught in a thresher or burn my hand in a bucket of lye, but I suffer (yes, I said suffer) from a host of repetitive stress injuries.

It started with my wrists and thumbs. I had what is known as DeQuervain’s Syndrome in both wrists/thumbs. This is a form of tendonitis where the sheath of the tendon that connects the thumb to the wrist is so inflamed it can’t move at all, or when it does, it is severely painful. A few years ago I had a simple operation on my left hand to relieve it. Then a couple years later, I had the operation on my right hand. All was good…until recently.

The operations had appeared to cure my ills, so I was seriously surprised to start feeling my forearm hurt. And then my shoulder. And then my back. Not cool—I have a special ergonomic desk chair that cost way too much. I have a special ergonomic footrest because I’m short and my feet don’t reach the floor. I use a pen tablet and not a mouse. What else could I do?

You can buy all this stuff and it doesn’t fix the fundamental problem—the repetitive part.  The way to really solve these issues is to take frequent breaks and stretches. Logical. However, when I get in the zone, hours can go by and I’ll be hunched over in my chair, wrists akimbo and all is painful. 

I’m not one to rave about software, but ok, I am going to evangelical to be about this. I bought this product called RSI Guard. It runs in the background of my computer, and then every 29 minutes, my screen goes blank and it tells me to take a break, and then gives me some stretching guidelines. It takes 2 minutes and then my work returns. I have to say, it’s fantastic. Just a week of taking 2-minute breaks and stretching has completely made my forearm pain go away! So if you too are suffering from modern occupational hazards, I highly recommend this. Unfortunately RSI Guard does not make a product to prevent threshing or lye-related injuries.