Five years ago I chased my little sister down to London so that she could attend a job interview. As a fully-grown adult, she didn’t need a friend to accompany her. As a fully grown adult who’d recently undergone surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, she did need her big sister to hold her interview dress.
My sister was able to access her carpal tunnel release surgery fairly quickly. According to the NICE Guidelines, we should all wait a minimum of six months while undergoing conservative management before heading to our nearest day surgery centre. There are some medical caveats, though, but they’re too dull to explore here.
As someone who is sort of a wimp when it comes to anaesthetics of any kind, I prefer taking the conservative approach to the pins and needles that occasionally plague my right hand. Suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome when you’re a copywriter really is the pits. A combination of poor posture (I love writing from my couch, I doubt creating an adventurous garden office is going to change that), minimal self-care, and long working hours mean I can definitely fling myself into the high-risk category. So far, I’ve managed to manage the condition myself successfully.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Every one of us houses two carpal tunnels: one in each hand. Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that your median nerve runs through. Making up this passageway is a plethora of bones, muscles, and ligaments, all of which work neatly together to protect this all-important nerve as it does its job. Your median nerve serves your thumb and first three fingers with motor and sensory input.
When something causes your carpal tunnel to narrow, it presses on the median nerve. As a result, you no longer benefit from the normal sensations that run through it. Instead, your nerve will probably let your brain know that something is anatomically incorrect with a combination of barn door obvious tingling and pain sensations. In moderate-to-extreme cases, you may find that your usual motor functions decline. In severe cases, the muscles at the palmar aspect of your hand will encounter wastage; most people don’t reach this stage, but if they do they don’t need to wait six months before making it onto a day surgery list.
How do you deal with carpal tunnel syndrome as a copywriter?
Dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome as a copywriter places you between a rock and a hard place. Stop writing and you can kiss goodbye to your regular income, and possibly most of your clients when you’re no longer hitting deadlines. Carry on writing without interventions and the problem will get worse, resulting in more pain and a poor night’s sleep.
There are ways to manage the problem conservatively at home. The methods you use may vary according to your current health state and how comfortable you feel with using them.
NSAIDs and carpal tunnel syndrome
If you can reach for the Ibuprofen, then do so. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs will provide some temporary relief and may make it easier to try the exercises I’ll link to below. Don’t reach for the Neurofen if you have conditions such as asthma, peptic ulcer disease, or anything else that contraindicates their use.
Thanks to the wonderful world of WebMD, there are some exercises you can use to relieve the pain that comes with carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, they may minimise the inflammation, making it easier for you to return to tapping away at your keyboard.
Enhance your posture
Full disclosure: I’m naff at maintaining a good posture while working. I’m practically the anthesis of good posture maintenance. But, if you can keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms while executing your copywriter duties you’ll reduce the hand movements that make inflammation worse.
Try a carpal tunnel wrist support
Yes, they do exist, and no they’re not ideal for wearing while copywriting. But, if you put one on at night you can maintain the straight posture that keeps that pesky narrow passageway’s components happy.
ICE is an option too
Did you ever sprain anything as a kid? If so, you may remember sitting with ice packs on the afflicted area in an attempt to reduce swelling. Apply ice to the affected wrist on the palmar side for 10 to 20 minutes a day. When you induce vasoconstriction you’ll block out some of the blood-borne fluids that make inflammation worse.
How can you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as a copywriter?
Remember those exercises I linked to a little earlier on in this post? They’re excellent for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Other ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as a writer include:
Take a break every so often
I can more than empathise with the need to write away for hours on end. Not taking a break every so often really is a fast track to tingling hands, though, so rise every hour, free your fingers for three minutes, and maybe even shake your hands out a little. Taylor Swift style.
Correct your posture
Check yourself periodically; are your wrists in line with your forearms? If not, alter your posture so that they are.
Lower your risk factors
Being overweight, poor maintenance of rheumatoid diseases, poor hypothyroidism control, and sleeping on your hands all increase risk of developing the condition. While some risk factors are easier to moderate than others, it’s still worth putting in the effort to lower them.
Consider using a mouse or wrist cushion
Ergonomics play a major role in carpal tunnel syndrome prevention, so if your office environment is due for an upgrade, try using a mouse or wrist cushion. Granted, it takes a little while to adapt to your new hand movements. But when you do, your future self will thank you.
Thanks to my valiant dress carrying efforts, my sister got her new job and is still enjoying it today. Both of us try our best to limit median nerve compression, and I may even start following my own advice a little more. For my closing statement, always seek medical advice if you notice symptoms. Although I’m pro-self care, only an objective medical opinion can tell you whether you need to head for those surgical hills or not.