If writing or typing is your livelihood, it can be worrying if you’re struck with wrist pain. Find out what I did to cure my wrist tendonitis.
The start of my wrist pain
About four weeks ago, I spent much of my Sunday working in the garden. I’m still not sure if that’s what caused my wrist pain, or whether it was just a coincidence, but the following day I had a pain in my left forearm, just below my left wrist on the same side as my thumb.
I ignored it. Well, we do, don’t we? (Note: do not ignore it!)
It got worse.
Over the next couple of days, I found typing, particularly stretching my first finger or thumb, extremely uncomfortable. The painful side of my wrist was visibly swollen, and when I moved it, I could feel crackling and popping. Not ideal!
I’m right-handed (luckily, in this case). I found that gripping anything in my left hand, for example, to open a jar, mash potatoes or change a bed, was impossible due to the pain.
I had a sinking feeling. I’d gone full-time freelance with my editing business just last October. Would this wrist pain threaten my livelihood?
Under normal (non-lockdown/non-global-pandemic) circumstances, I would have gone to the doctor, received a professional diagnosis, and followed the advice given.
However, given the current situation, I decided to see what I could find out for myself.
I extensively researched across many trusted sites, and self-diagnosed myself (again, I would highly recommend that you consult a medical professional to confirm your condition) as having either wrist tendonitis (inflamed tendon) or wrist tenosynovitis (inflamed sheath around the tendon).
An essential caveat before we go any further. I am not medically trained, nor do I recommend that you follow my advice without first consulting a medical expert. I’m just sharing here what worked for me personally, in case it’s of use to you.
The steps I took to cure my wrist pain
The general consensus across the several well-respected websites that I consulted about wrist tendonitis is that the solution is a four-pronged approach, easily remembered by the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Here’s how I applied this advice:
I noticed how much better my wrist was each morning, after a night’s rest, so I tried to not use it as much as possible during the day. Rather than touch-type, I used my right hand for more computer keys than usual, only using my left hand for those keys that didn’t require any stretching.
Online advice also suggested wearing a splint to keep the wrist straight and rested.
This is the wrist splint I bought, and I found it really good. My wrist felt supported as soon as I put it on, and it reminded me to use my left hand as little as possible. It’s also a bonus that you can whip out the metal strip and stick it in the washing machine every couple of days, which is needed when you’re wearing it all the time!
I did find that if I kept my wrist immobile for an hour or more at a time, it would feel a bit crampy and stiff, but a few gentle exercises (see below) soon put paid to that.
I wore the splint day and night, removing it for gentle exercise. Some online advice says to wear it only during the day, other advice says to continue the support at night. I compromised, and loosened it at bedtime to ensure healthy blood flow while I slept.
I only applied this advice once, as the rest and exercises quickly improved my wrist. I bought an ice gel pack wrist wrap which was easy to use and did seem to help the one time I used it. Be prepared for almost unbearable coldness!
This was covered off with the wrist splint as mentioned above. I found that wrapping it fairly tightly during the day was enough compression for me. This restricted my movement significantly (thereby reducing pain) and applied adequate pressure to the damaged area.
Again, I found that I needed to remove the splint occasionally and gently exercise my wrist using the exercises in the video embedded in this article. Rest and compression on their own weren’t the answer for my tendonitis.
I think this tends to apply more to tendonitis in lower parts of the body (putting your feet up as much as possible to reduce swelling), but I did try to hold my hand against the front of my body in an upward position as much as possible.
I can’t say whether this had a positive effect or not, but it certainly didn’t worsen anything and could have helped to reduce swelling.
Exercise (the extra ‘E’)
The RICE advice (ooh, that rhymes!) doesn’t include ‘exercise’. From what I’ve been reading online (again, I’m not a doctor so please seek medical advice and an accurate diagnosis for your pain!) pure rest is not the thing to with tendonitis. I certainly found that a balance of rest and gentle exercises got rid of my pain.
After a day or two of resting my wrist (minimal typing and general use, using my splint day and night as described above), I found the video below. After just one round of these exercises, my wrist felt much improved. Thanks, Doctor Jo (and thank you for permitting me to embed your video in this blog post!)
Preventing tendonitis from returning
I was lucky. I caught my wrist pain early, rested (almost) immediately and balanced this with gentle exercises. Within two to three weeks, the pain had completely gone and, a week later, it has not returned (touch wood).
The wrist area still looks slightly swollen, especially by the end of the day, so it’s clearly still healing. I am being careful not to overdo things, and am still doing Doctor Jo’s exercises (see embedded video in this post) when I remember. But no pain!
I will continue to monitor my wrist for any returning pain and if this happens, I will visit the doctor to get a proper diagnosis. I do not want to do any long-lasting damage by treating it incorrectly at home, and risk having surgery further down the road.
This article by Debbie Young collates advice from other writers on how they take care of their hands and wrists, and how they cope when pain strikes.
Here’s what I did to cure my wrist pain:
- I did not ignore the pain (well, maybe for a day or two…)
- I rested my wrist by moving it as little as possible and strapping it into a splint.
- After a couple of days of rest, I began doing gentle wrist exercises throughout the day, balancing this with periods of rest.
- I amended my typing movements for the painful hand, in case this was the cause.
- Once the pain had gone, I slowly returned to normal movements, but am continuing with the exercises to strengthen the wrist and keep it supple.
Have you had any wrist pain, or pain in other areas, that has threatened to affect your work? Let me know in the comments!
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