Ehstoday 1149 Sandypromosize

Sandy Says: Carpal Tunnel Blues

April 9, 2013
On a rare and glorious 70-degree March day in the Midwest, I was in a mood more suited to a blizzard in late January.

As I sat on my back patio with a cup of coffee on a late morning that more resembled May than March, I was in a bitter and salty mood (not a good flavor combination). Yes, the coffee tasted wonderful. Yes, the smell of the earth carried with it a whiff of spring. Yes, the sun was warm on my face. And all I could think about was the fact that I had to lift the coffee cup with two hands because neither one of mine was operating at full capacity.

You see, I had a major flare-up of carpal tunnel inflammation in the past 2 months and nothing I did – taking time off, employing wrist rests, staying off the computer and smart phone after I leave work, dosing myself with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, wearing wrist braces – had helped. Pain and frustration forced me to the doctor, who prescribed a course of steroids in a last-ditch attempt to avoid surgery. Since I previously never experienced so much as a twinge of pain or discomfort that could be linked to carpal tunnel, this has been a real eye opener of an experience.

As someone who types on a computer all day, every day, and who has done it for way more years than I publicly will admit, I've known that carpal tunnel syndrome was a real possibility for me. As someone who writes about ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders, I know all about stretching, workplace accommodations, workload management, taking breaks, etc. But the advent of smart phones, 24/7 connectivity, longer workdays and greater workloads finally broke my will to respect my body and its limitations and broke my hands.

My life for the past 2 months was pain-filled and miserable. I had to think before I reached for a doorknob. I couldn't hold a fork properly. I couldn't sign my name or take handwritten notes. I had to lift a coffee cup with two hands and I had to be careful when getting dressed so as not to cause shooting pains from my fingertips to my elbows. Turning a key in a lock became an almost overwhelming challenge. Everyday life became exhausting!!

The measures I've taken to limit the hours I spend on a keyboard, as well as the steroids prescribed by my doctor, worked their magic. I'm able to lift a coffee cup – even a coffee pot – with one hand. I can walk my dogs, mop the floor and dress myself like I did a few months ago.  Today, I tied a pair of shoes all by myself with almost as much pride as I felt the first time I did it at the age of five (I was a slow learner). 

This experience has given me a powerful and profound sense of respect and understanding for workers who experience chronic pain as the result of work-related injuries or disabling medical conditions.  After 2 months, I'm throwing in the towel and screaming, "Uncle!" I can't even imagine living with this pain day in and day out indefinitely,  yet millions of people do.

From the outside, I looked the same as always. On the inside, I was tired, aching, aggravated, frustrated and miserable. Not only that, I was a distracted and non-productive worker. Our ever-increasing workloads and lack of downtime don't just take a toll on our personal lives, they take a toll on our bodies. Remember that.

Send an email with your thoughts to [email protected]

Sponsored Recommendations

ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

March 28, 2024
ISO 45001 certification – reduce your organizational risk and promote occupational health and safety (OHS) by working with SGS to achieve certification or migrate to the new standard...

Want to Verify your GHG Emissions Inventory?

March 28, 2024
With the increased focus on climate change, measuring your organization’s carbon footprint is an important first action step. Our Green House Gas (GHG) verification services provide...

Download Free ESG White Paper

March 28, 2024
The Rise and Challenges of ESG – Your Journey to Enhanced Sustainability, Brand and Investor Potential

Free Webinar: Mining & ESG: The Sustainability Mandate

March 28, 2024
Participants in this webinar will understand the business drivers and challenges of ESG and sustainability performance, the 5 steps of the ESG and sustainability cycle, and prioritized...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!