10 January 2018

Too long at the computer and an issue with carpal tunnel syndrome

I have been spending a great deal of time at the computer recently, not only do I spend an hour or two each evening blogging and doing blogging related tasks like photo editing and networking on social media etc but during the day when Little 3 is at nursery I am currently very busy getting on with my coursework to qualify as a teaching assistant. 

The course is going very well but there is an awful lot of typing involved, each essay is several thousand words long and back in November I was beginning to notice I was developing a problem with my hands and wrists.

My lower forearms felt a bit weak and numb some of the time, like they had lost strength. There was a little fuzziness in my wrists and I kept wanting to clench and unclench my fists as my arms and hands felt a bit limp, there was no pain and it came on gradually over a week or two (when I was writing a particularly long essay) particularly at the end of the day. 

It didn't take me long to realise that suddenly spending hours typing at the computer for my course was probably to blame and that I needed to do something about it quick before it got worse.

It is not the first time I have had issues, when I was a teenager I played the flute and was in the school orchestra, I played and practiced a lot and developed problems with my wrists. At the time the doctor thought it was as my bones were still developing and I saw a physiotherapist who expected it was Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I often wore a support when it was bad as that helped with the aching and had ultrasound therapy for a while too.

In my late teens I stopped playing the flute (and growing) and the issue went away but the recent recurrence of the symptoms had got me concerned. 

When blogging in the evening I usually sit on the sofa with the laptop on my lap in quite a relaxed position and have done for several years so I didn't think it was that. I sit at the dining table when I do my coursework surrounded by books and sheets of paper and I wondered if my position was wrong. 

I thought my typing position was good, I was taking care to sit at the table, straight with the computer in front and taking care to rest my wrists between typing but obviously something wasn't right so I turned to the internet to look for typing positions and information on Repetitive Strain Injury from typing and Carpal Tunnel too.

It turns out although my position itself was good I was doing a couple of things wrong, apparently your arms should be above the keyboard not level with it, easily sorted by raising myself up with putting a cushion on the chair while I work (I am not the tallest of people!) and I shouldn't be resting my wrists on the keyboard as I type, they should  be able to bounce around and quite relaxed, again sorting my chair sorted this too as my arms are higher now.

I also make sure I am taking adequate breaks from typing, Little 3 is at nursery three hours in the morning so I tend to get home from the school run and type all morning until it is time to pick him up in order to get as much done as possible, now I take time to have a short break from typing every 45 minutes or so (and by break I mean emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry!). By doing this and not doing any coursework over Christmas I am no longer getting most of the symptoms and when I notice my wrists feeling a bit weak I do some of the written coursework tasks instead.

I am over a third of the way through the course and with six months to go until the end, I hope that by being aware of my position and my typing limits, I can get through the course without causing an issue or long term. It really does make a difference knowing how to sit correctly and taking those all important breaks too.

N.B This was a collaborative post.

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