Giving your hands some help

For those of  who have not had a hand injury or born with out “normal” hands; we only have one set of hands, unlike some sci-fi characters. As such we should give them a “helping hand” so that we have long into our old age working as expected without any pain added by our modern online way of living. I hope that we have all heard of ‘Gamer’s Thumb’, ‘Texting Thumb’ or ‘knitter’s thumb’, yet did you know that they are all the same thing. RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury can occur in any of these activities at the base of our thumbs.

I have been making things by knitting or crocheting since I was a young girl (about the age of 8) and at the time did not know that these activities contributed to having saw thumbs and hands. Personally, I have hyper-mobile joints in my body which can/do cause a whole lot of other problems, however I never thought that my thumbs would be part of that. When learning the piano as a six year old, I could easily span an octave on a standard keyboard. Not in my wildest dreams as a grew up did I think that my joints would be subjected to thumb pain!

The jobs I have done have may also have something to do with the pain as well. Being a touch typist has been a boon in my work. My point is through, activities you do through your life contribute to this whether it be from typing, knitting using a mobile phone, tablet or game console you need to look after your hands to avoid such pain.

About 15 years ago I started to get pains in the base of my right thumb. I was not knitting at the time so did not think that was the cause of it. I was however doing a lot of typing (as you do when you are coding & teaching) as well as using my smartphone extensively. On seeing a physiotherapist, getting x-rays of my hand and other tests, I was diagnosed as having De quervain’s syndrome.  It sounded so scary. The physiotherapist at the time did not consider my highly mobile joints may have contributed to it. I was given advice to take anti-inflammatory drugs, rest my hand, wear a splint that supported my thumb and a series of exercises.

Although there is a name for this pain, it is Tenosynovitis of the tendons and surrounding structure of the thumb. Most of the exercises helped with the pain and I do them regularly now. Having a painful thumb and wrist can/has sidelined me for weeks whilst I rest my joints.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional and what I am stating is my journey and what works for me. If you have thumb or hand pain do go to your doctor to have it checked out, or see a physiotherapist.

Help & Love for Our Hands

I use about a series of exercises that I find very helpful. I am providing links to videos that help explain what they are and how to do them from one of my favourite youtube Physiotherapists – Dr Jo. I use a stress ball to do the ball exercises and have a set of small hand weights instead of the can, although a 440g can of soup is good to use. 

I also use heat and cold on my hands. I have been know to put my hand into an ice bath for as long as I can stand it.I also have a small hot wheat bag that my hand can rest on when using heat. I take breaks and massage my forearm muscle groups as they can contribute to the pain as well when they get tight. When massaging my hands and forearms I like to use a natural anti-inflammatory cream (end up smelling of peppermint and pine). I make sure that I wash my hands thoroughly afterwards so that I don’t put anything in my eyes or mouth.

I also cannot stress enough the importance of proper posture whilst doing any activity that may cause pain. Ergonomics plays such a big part of my knitting and typing that I regularly check whether I have the right posture, holding my knitting needles as well as how I am sitting in the chair.

The exercises in the videos are the same ones my physiotherapist gave me. I just think seeing them is better than trying to write them down. For General Hand/Joint/Wrist health they are good to do as well.

Final Thoughts on My Hands

I personally think that my thumb pain is a combination of all the hobbies and jobs I have done over the years with a keyboard and needles. I also think that my highly mobile joints have added to this as time went on. Who at 55 over 50 can bend their hand so their thumb almost touches the inside of their wrist.
I have given myself permission to stop when I need to, when the pain is at its greatest, do my hand exercises each day (using the videos as a reminder) and enjoy the massage of hands and forearms as much as possible.
I do think that having a doctor check out the pain is a good idea, and that having any sort of cortisone injection is not. What the medical professionals call ‘conservative treatment’ works for me and it might just work for you.

hands typing on typewriter.