01 January 2023
Since writing this article, I have been diagnosed with arthritis in my hands, with my right thumb having bone-on-bone. Ouchy!!!!
I had surgery to remove a bone from the CMC joint in December 2021 and have been doing rehab since then. I have a few pictures of my hand post-surgery, which I will upload here soon.
A bit of background
updated 01 Nov 2023
For those of us who have not had a hand injury or were born without “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 can work as expected long into our old age 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 sore thumbs and hands. Personally, I have hypermobile joints in my body, which can cause a whole lot of other problems; however, I never thought that my thumbs would be part of that. When I was 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 grownup did I think that my joints would be subjected to 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.
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.