Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tools of My Trade?

I am a professional Research Fellow - I have ten chapters of a textbook to edit and update, 2 grant proposals to complete, and 150 emails to send and respond to...and those are just the things at the top of my list!!

But I also have RA in my hands, De Quervain's tenosynovitis in my right hand, and extra pain in my left hand for the slack it has been picking up by trying to rest my right hand.

Even though my hands seem to become more useless by the day, almost my entire job depends on my ability to use the computer. And, even though I am only half time (meaning I ought to have plenty of time to rest my hands) my leisure activities - like updating this blog and oh, say, planning my wedding from out of state - also require the use of the computer. 

The computer is quickly becoming my biggest hurdle.

So today I came to work prepared with an armory of "tools" to try to help my hands get through the day - compression gloves, a thumb brace, a wrist brace, and cut-off gloves for extra warmth. None of these tools make a very good fashion statement (or look particularly professional, for that matter). In my purse I also have aleve, prednisone, vicodin, and topical anti-inflammatory. 

But I'm still not accomplishing as much as I would like to.  Which is frustrating.

I feel like I've really worked hard on adjusting what I expect from myself since my RA diagnosis, but sometimes it's still really hard for me. Not to mention that resting your hands is basically equivalent to literally doing nothing. And, as anyone who knows me personally will tell you, I am not good at doing nothing - I always like to be productive.

However, the more I use my hands, the less productive I become - even with all the support tools I can think of. Somehow I have to convince myself that it is actually productive to spend some time laying on the couch and watching TV so that I don't go crazy while I rest my hands, even if it results in be getting behind in my work. 

But I haven't yet figured out how to convince myself.


Mirela said...

I read your last few posts and I can't believe how much they spoke to me...including the one about parenthood (had Suzie's book saved in my bookmarks a while back). Thank you Mariah.
So, I've also been dealing with the hand tendonitis problem and it is just downright FRUSTRATING. I hate it!!! In the beginning I thought using the hands more would be a good idea. I do some rowing at the gym (don't imagine a hard-core routine) and I have noticed the pain would be more intense afterwards...all the pulling on the wrist, thumb etc. When I stopped doing that, the pain was still there but it was less intense. Conclusion: try to protect the hand from strain as much as possible. However, the pain is still unpredictable: like you, almost every day I have some hand varies in degree and it won't go away. Like you, I have problems pulling my pants up (and down) and it's embarrassing when you think about where that exercise happens most often during the day. Turning knobs and typing are also very hard etc...very frustrating. I had to smile looking at all your "hand gear" because that collection looks so similar to mine. I hope that one day this hand issue will disappear for both of us.

~Mariah~ said...

MIRELA: I think Suzie's book is a pretty great resource for anyone considering parenthood and RA. There's certainly a lot of nitty-gritty, but there's also a lot of hope and inspiration there too.

In other news, I'm pretty sure that hand pain is the WORST EVER. Honestly, all other types of pain I can at least figure out how to rest! Resting my hands makes me feel SO WORTHLESS! So if you have any brilliant ideas for how to rest your hands and still feel productive, I'm all ears! (The best one I have so far is paraffin wax - the heat feels great on achy hands and I don't feel so bad about doing nothing because my hands are covered with WAX for goodness sake!)

Anyhow, I hope things get better with your hands soon. Thanks for the post. ~;o)

Helen said...

I'm always telling other people that rest is important - if you let yourself get run down, you won't be able to do the quality of work you want. I never seem to listen to my own advice, though, so this post really rings true with me.

Lately my biggest hurdle is fatigue: my hip is a superstar after my cortisone shot, but I'm just so exhausted most of the time. Like you, I'm working at believing that rest is necessary and important and, in the end, it will actually make me more productive. Let's hope so, anyway!

~Mariah~ said...

HELEN: Rest is really hard! Particularly, as I know from experience, when you are in law school and there is ALWAYS something you could be doing to be a better student!

But we're both right - if we don't rest, we'll get run down and it will take up more time than then time it would have taken to rest in the first place. Now we just have to figure out how to listen to ourselves!

Zoƫ said...

I have to tell you I found (when I was working full time and working on the computer all the time) I LOVED this keyboard (it SAVED my hands)

I do not work for this company and get NOTHING for this. It is just a keyboard that I really believe in.

I hope that you find some things that help, it is a pain to have pain in your hands.... I say as my hands hurt;)

Oh the only trouble with the keyboard is the price (maybe you can get your work to pay for it?? cross fingers).

~Mariah~ said...

ZOE: Thanks for the recommendation. I have always been a little bit wary about these keyboards that are split down the middle, because I don't think I type all the right letters with all the right fingers, so I was worried that it would mess up my typing.

But seeing as my typing is obviously already messed up I think I will certainly look into it!! Also, I've had to change a lot of my ways to adjust to RA, so I'm sure I could re-adjust my typing skills if it would help with the hand pain....So thanks again for the post!!

Mirela said...

Mariah, thank you for the paraffin wax suggestion. I agree heat seems to work well for me even for my feet. Even on the feet, I suspect that most of the pain is caused by tendonitis and not necessarily by the joint swelling. This winter, I did daily feet baths and the constant foot pain started to disappear. I had about 2 months off from that pain:) Unfortunately, it has returned just about a month ago but I also discontinued the foot bath too busy. The other thing that helps me for the hands (if I always do it when I type etc), is those gloves with half fingers (seems like you have a pair...left side of your picture), because it keeps the tendon stable (my guess) and hence rested. My glove seems to have something hard around the palm/wrist area (almost like a splinter). I didn't yet find the "best solution", but I'll keep searching and I will let you know.

~Mariah~ said...

MIRELA: yeah, the paraffin is pretty great! I haven't tried it on my feet yet, but I bet it would be great there too!

Leslie said...

If you are really have alot of pain and need to do a lot of typing you could consider a voice reconition program like Dragon - pricy, but it will allow you to rest your hands and let them heal while still being productive at work. It might be worth talking to your employer about.

Unknown said...

Mariah, I have a suggestion. Replace that mouse with one that is stationery with a big red roller ball on top. You roll the ball with your forefinger and/or middle finger and you don't move your wrist at all. It has saved me. I also use a wrist rest on my keyboard. I didn't notice if you had one or not.

Hope this helps!


~Mariah~ said...

LESLIE: I actually have a voice recognition program - MacSpeech Dictate ( I find that it is useful for some things - like taking notes or maybe personal emails - but that it isn't accurate enough for what I do at work - which is a lot of in-depth editing, re-writing, and business emails. But maybe I just need more practice with it.

LETTYANN: I am going to keep that suggestion in mind! For the time being I have moved to mousing left handed and that seems to be solving most of the major problems for now. But I'm sure my left hand will get tired of being in charge after a while and then maybe I'll ask for a new mouse!