30 Oct 2017
As a writer, your hands are one of your most valuable tools. The images that appear in your mind won’t translate to paper without being written down. This is where your hands come in; floating over the keyboard, gripping that expensive French fountain pen, or scribbling notes on scrap paper using a pencil stub. They are the unifying element connecting your brain and imagination to your readers.
You can’t do much writing if your fingers hurt, your hands ache, or your wrists burn. Fortunately, there are non-surgical preventives that don’t involve medication. They take more time to work than popping aspirin does, but they do help.
I have mild arthritis in both hands, a heritage from my mother. I also developed carpel tunnel syndrome. Doing any kind of handwork was becoming more and more painful. I could not type, I could not do my gardening, and I could not sew as well, particularly fine handwork like embroidery.
I solved these problems mechanically and you can too.
First, I wear Thera-gloves. (Amazon link) These are like compression gloves for your hands. I own many pairs, and I wear them to sleep in, to write in, and to sew in. They are made of a spandex blend so they are tight, but not painfully so. The compression helps support my fingers.
I recommend, from my personal experience, that you wear them for everything you do that is dry. They don’t take to water very well, although they are washable. I keep a pair at the keyboard, a pair at the sewing machine, and a pair at bedside.
It makes sense that I wear Thera-gloves while working, but why do I wear them at night? Because if your hands are cold, then the arthritis sinks in more deeply and takes longer to go away in the morning. Keeping your hands warm all night long, especially in winter, goes a long way to easing pain during the day. Gloves ensure that your hands won’t get cold. I wear mine year-round.
Thera-gloves come in styles. The most useful for me is the one with free fingertips. Having my fingertips covered made it harder to type or sew. This style leaves my fingers and thumbs completely bare.
These gloves also come in colors and patterns. This is a personal choice, but I prefer beige as that is the closest color to my skin tone and lets me see what I’m doing more easily. Darker gloves or leopard print distracted me. On the other hand, my 20-year-old daughter wasn’t going to be caught dead in any color other than black when she crochets.
Thera-glove is not the only compression glovemaker out there. There are many varieties and all of them work the same way. Look in the drug store or in the craft store or the sewing store. Try them on before you buy them as the better brands are sized. You want a comfortable fit but not a loose one. A small amount of compression is what works best. You should get a glove for each hand. This is another thing to check on the package as some places sell them as rights or lefts only. You have to buy a pair to take care of both hands.
The second thing I did was for my incipient carpel tunnel syndrome. I had been developing pain in my first and middle fingers, making it harder to type and much harder to use the mouse. I got shooting pains up my forearms and changing my mouse hand from right to left didn’t help. Instead, it ensured I got nerve damage on both sides.
The doctor suggested wrist splints, so I bought a set. Like compression gloves, wrist splints come in pairs, right and left. I wear mine every night. They look like bondage gear: a heavy black nylon gauntlet that encases my lower forearms and extends up onto my hands and around my thumbs. They are held snugly in place with wide Velcro straps, and I wear them over my compression gloves to sleep in.
Wrist splints are available at every large drug store. They tend to be sold as singletons, right or left, so be sure you get one of each. They are also sized, and you should try them on before you buy them. There are a lot of styles available. Look for ones that wrap around the thumb and are adjustable.
Most importantly, get ones with a metal plate. This plate, about 8 inches long and an inch wide, is what makes the magic happen. The plate supports your wrist in such a way that your carpel tunnel does not get inflamed, irritating the nerve bundle that runs through it.
I wear my wrist splints every night, allowing any inflammation that I developed during the day to go down. You cannot hold your wrists the way the splint does. It forces your wrists into the correct position.
Within a few days of wearing my splints at night, my pain and that annoying nerve tingle went away and now, several years later, they haven’t come back. If I were to develop pain during the day, I could wear the splints when I work, over my compression gloves. It is possible to type with them on, despite their bulkiness. Sewing would be more difficult and I would probably have to remove them for those tasks.
I do not have to take pain medication for my hands and wrists anymore. I was able to avoid surgery. My 80-year-old mother began wearing the splints over her gloves and had the same miracle happen to her hands. It took a few days to notice the effect, but by the time a month went by, her hands were almost back to her normal.
The compression gloves and the wrist splints worked like magic. I cannot recommend them highly enough and if you have pain in your hands and wrists, they are well worth trying. Since no drugs or surgery are involved, the risk of collateral damage is very low. They are not expensive compared to losing the use of your hands.
You have nothing to lose and if your hands stop fighting you, you can write better.