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How I Deal With Carpal Tunnel as an Artist

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I have a BFA in 3D animation. I'm also very interested in cinematography, editing, and web design.

Struggling with wrist problems can be helped by wearing a wrist brace.

Struggling with wrist problems can be helped by wearing a wrist brace.

Carpal Tunnel: Every Artist's Fear

One of the fears every artist has is that something will happen to their hands. Over the years, you may begin to feel your wrists hurting as a result of your creative efforts. This is the worst possible outcome, as whenever you try to perform your craft—whether it's playing the violin, guitar, painting, drawing, writing, etc.—the pain in your wrists may prevent you from doing what you love.

For me, there were even some nights when I couldn't sleep because my wrists were in so much pain. In this article, I will share what I've found to be helpful for my carpal tunnel. And I'm happy to say that my wrists have improved over the last couple of years.

Essentially, you're going to baby your wrists as much as possible. Then you're going to stretch and strengthen them over time, so you don't have to be so careful with them in the future.

I have no medical training, nor have I taken any classes on this issue. This article is a compilation of the guidelines I've personally followed to treat my carpal tunnel, and I believe that following these guidelines has helped my wrists over the years. This advice is not to be taken in place of a medical diagnosis or treatment.

Change How You Work on the Computer

Make sure your wrists are flat on your desk or table whenever you are typing or are using the mouse. Avoid typing on a laptop as I've found that the act of having to "hover" over the keys without anything supporting your wrist to be near murder the next day, especially if I'm on the computer for an extended time.

If you must use a laptop, invest in some sort of a foam insert or wrist brace that you can put in front of the keyboard, so your wrists have some form of support.

When I say flat on the desk, I mean that your forearms should be touching the desk as well. You may have to push your mouse or keyboard foreword on your desk, but trust me, once you get used to laying your forearms down, it really helps keep your wrist from hurting.

Your Day Job/Part-time Job

If you are currently working a temporary job in retail or similar jobs, be sure to wear a wrist brace if you are cashiering and using your wrist constantly in the same motion, over and over.

As much as I hated wearing it, my wrists started getting bad again when I tried to not wear one. In the end, it was worth the sacrifice of having to wear a brace, knowing that I would be able to go home and create without my wrists flaring up.

Stretch Your Wrist Regularly

When I first began making these changes, my wrists hurt all the time. I had to wear a brace constantly, and even then, they still hurt. I remember the first couple of weeks of stretching were very painful because my muscles were so tense and worn out. After a couple of weeks, I saw a dramatic improvement in my movement and flexibility in my right wrist. My right wrist is my dominant wrist, so it is always the one that is hurting.

How to Stretch Out Your Wrist

Take whichever wrist that is hurting (for me, it's my right), and extend your hand out. Take your other hand and hold onto your hand. What you want to do is take your non-dominant hand and stretch your wrist to the left. You want to pull your other hand until you feel a bit of a stretch on the right side of your wrist. Hold this for around 10 seconds. Now flip over your arm, and stretch your wrist to the left again. This will stretch out the other side of your wrist. Again, hold for another 10 seconds or so.

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Straighten out your wrist and pull your hand down to stretch out your forearm muscles. Hold for 10 seconds. Flip over your arm and, again, pull your hand down until you feel a light stretch. Hold for 10 seconds and release.

Depending on how much your wrist is hurting, you will feel that it's sore, and it will hurt the first couple of times. Chances are that one of these ways to stretch will be more painful than the others. Don't over-stretch your wrist when you start out stretching your wrist. You want to gradually build up to being able to stretch a little farther each time.

I stretch out my wrist each time my wrists start hurting. After stretching, the pain usually will subside and dull down. It's a daily practice that really helps out my wrists, and I've found that as I continued to do this, I had to stretch my wrists out less and less because they've been feeling better.

Massaging painful areas on your wrist helps relieve pain.

Massaging painful areas on your wrist helps relieve pain.

Massaging Your Wrist

After stretching, if my wrist is still a little sore, I like to give it a little massage to help the blood flow better and ease the pain.

The first thing I do is find where it hurts on my wrist. Once I do, I'll use the thumb on my other hand and push down with some force and rub in a circular motion. Occasionally I'll hit a really sore spot, and like working out a knot from someone's back, it'll hurt, but as you massage the spot, it'll let up and stop hurting after a while.

After you familiarize yourself and do this regularly, you'll probably realize what spots are normally the trouble makers.

Wear a Wrist Brace When You Sleep

This was one of the hardest things to adjust to, but it is probably one of the most beneficial to my wrist.

When you wake up in the morning, are your wrists bent toward you? I noticed that when I sleep, I like to bring my arms in, and my wrists are always bent. This causes strain on my wrists, and after wearing something that forces me to not bend my wrists all night, the pain in my wrist was drastically reduced.

Now, wearing the actual brace took some time to get used to. Be sure not to have it on too tightly at night otherwise, you'll cut off the circulation to your hand, and it'll swell up like a balloon (I've done it, and it's not pretty). You want one of the braces that has the metal plate in it to keep the wrist from being able to bend.

After I've worn it for a while, occasionally, I'll take it off and sleep without it. Just make sure that you're sleeping in such a way that your wrist is not bent. It's a little more troublesome, but whatever helps your wrist and allows you to sleep better.

Below is an example of what type of wrist brace I've found to be the most helpful. You want one that will restrict some of the movement of the wrist. These kinds will have either a metal plate inside or hard plastic. I've tried using just the kind that wraps around your wrist without these support plates, but they never seemed to do much for me.

Yoga is good for stretching and strengthening muscles.

Yoga is good for stretching and strengthening muscles.

Yoga and Pilates for the Wrist

This is my most recent endeavor to help strengthen my wrist. I used to practice Poi and staff spinning, but recently I've begun to pick up Yoga and Pilates.

Yoga, in general, is just good for stretching out all of your muscles after sitting for hours in front of a computer. There are a few good Yoga moves that help stretch out the wrist and requires a lot of strength in your wrist to hold poses, as well as Pilates.

I haven't been practicing either for an extended time, so the only thing I can say is that occasionally my wrists will not be able to perform as I would like them. Be sure not to push your wrists too far, too fast. You don't want to push your wrist back a step and injure it.

Closing Thoughts

Some of these may seem like bothersome steps, but after seeing my wrists improve and being able to do more of what I love doing, I now put as much effort as I can into strengthening and stretching out my wrists as I can (as well as all my other muscles).

I'm not going to lie and say that this has cured my wrists completely, but all of the steps above have improved my wrists to a state that is manageable and doesn't impede my creativity. There are days when they are worse than others, depending on if I've been on the computer too long or done too much Pilates, but I can pick up the violin, go bowling, or draw without the discomfort of wearing a wrist brace.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Warren on December 16, 2018:

I have done all of the above. Soaking my wrist in hot water for 10-15 minutes helped a great deal. The brace really helps.

Better Yourself from North Carolina on April 28, 2013:

Great hub and tips! I just recently had to start wearing a brace while working on the computer and while sleeping. I will have to try the stretching and see if that makes a difference. Thanks for sharing!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on April 27, 2013:

Great tips and exercise techniques for C.T. Very useful for those of us who work endlessly at our computers. Congrats on the HOTD award.

prosols on April 27, 2013:

woow great !! thanks for such knowledge

vandynegl from Ohio Valley on April 27, 2013:

Great ideas! I like that you venture into more natural ways of dealing with carpal tunnel. I was diagnosed with some nerve damage in 2011, but I believe that my damage (in both my hands and feet) were mostly anxiety related! However, my "numbers" put me in the carpal tunnel area and I eventually looked into natural therapies (and changes to diet) to help. I no longer have any type of pain or tingling at all. I wore wrist braces at night too! I still wear them occasionally now! I sometimes wake myself up at night because I feel like my wrists have begun to curl inward, when I don't want them too! It's weird!

Thank you for posting such great information! I appreciate it!

Noelle (author) from Denver on April 27, 2013:

Thank you for the kind words, every one. I'm happy that this information was helpful to many.

Dealing with wrist pain is hard, but as long as you take care of your wrists and muscles, stretch them, use them and strengthen them, it really helps in the long run. I've experienced it myself and feel so much better after years of just dealing with the pain.

whonunuwho from United States on April 27, 2013:

A well presented work and very helpful. I have this problem in my left arm and wrist and am developing symptoms in my right hand. Thanks for the great tips. whonu

Natasha from Hawaii on April 27, 2013:

This is really helpful! I am super nervous about developing carpal tunnel because I rely on my hands! My man has it pretty badly =(

Sadika Alloush on April 27, 2013:

Thank you so much. I really needed this. voted useful

Joanne M Olivieri on April 27, 2013:

Fantastic hub. While I don't have carpal tunnel, I do have some problems with my right hand when on the computer and doing part time cashiering. Your info about using the mouse and computer is very helpful. Great tips here and wonderful hub. Voted up and shared.

moonlake from America on April 27, 2013:

My husband is dealing with this right now. I will have to show him this maybe it will help him. He does not want to have surgery. Congrats on HOTD.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on April 27, 2013:

I was introduced to some of these stretches during a recent yoga class. Will definitely try the others. Thank you for including the video since it's often difficult to visualize written instructions. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on April 27, 2013:

These are great tips. I love that you have the video, and actually demonstrate how to stretch the muscles out, and massage them. It's also nice to hear tips like this from someone who has had problems, and relieved them somewhat over time. Thanks for sharing this with us, and congrats on HOTD.

Debra Allen from West Virginia on April 27, 2013:

Good information. I was just telling my husband the other day that I think I am getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Now i can stretch my muscles out. Thanks for this hub.

Oh and congrats on the hub of the day!

mjkearn on April 27, 2013:

Hi Noelle

Congratulations on HOTD. Great hub and excellent formatting. There's a lot in this article and you should be happy with a job well done.

Voted up.


Donna Herron from USA on April 27, 2013:

I started wearing a wrist brace for repetitive tasks like knitting. It really helps a lot. I'll have to incorporate your stretches and massaging. Congrats on your HOTD!!

Subhas from New Delhi, India on April 27, 2013:

Being in the medical field, I am facing a lot of carpal tunnel patients these days with different occupational hazards and you have dealt with the subject quite well.

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