Friday, September 01, 2006

Health Warning for Writers...

...Or for anyone who spends a lot of time on the computer.

I've spent years on the computer, and years before that with pen and paper or on my old Brother Word Processor. In between I drew and painted.

Needless to say, my wrists and hands have paid the price. I've had CT, corporal tunnel, for years and now I have a new little problem that's turning out to be a bigger one than the CT. It's known by most of us non-doctor types as something simply called Trigger Finger. It is in my ring finger on my right hand.

At first it started as just a little catch, a little ache at times. Then it got where I could reach and grab something small and the middle knuckle on that ring finger would lock up, kind of feel like it slipped out of joint when the hand closed into a tight fist. I could stretch the hand back open and I would feel the finger snap free, --where the name Trigger Finger comes from-- like the knuckle popped back into place or something, and the finger would open and be fine. It did hurt when it did it, but not bad. I was sure I must have just jammed my finger or hurt it in some other way. I was spending a whole lot of time on the computer then, even more time than normal. I have my RWC groups to deal with daily, my website, other e-mail, I was finishing up that non-fiction manuscript to send in and went right from it to trying to rewrite one of my romance novels. I was spending more times scrolling with the mouse sometimes than typing.

Then it got worse. The finger would lock up even when I wasn't making a tight fist. Instead of happening a couple of times a day, it began to happen four or five, then seven or eight. Then I started waking up at night with my finger hurting and realized it was locked and I'd have to make it open. It was starting to get where I couldn’t stretch the hand open and free up the finger sometimes. I was having to actually straighten the finger out with my other hand. Most of my hand was beginning to hurt more often now, kind of even felt sore. I wondered if maybe this was some new part of my CT from all the extra long hours on the computer. I finally asked on line. I got a few very quick replies from people with the same problem. Within minutes I had the name Trigger Finger. I did a little research on line...which hurt like H E double L since my right hand is my mouse hand and using the mouse had gotten almost too painful to even do by that point.

I learned from my searching that Trigger Finger had to be caught quickly and treated early, before the finger started staying locked. If not, it can lock in a closed position and stay that way. Surgery is often needed, especially if it isn't caught soon. I also found out that diabetics, which I am one of, are at a greater risk of getting both Trigger Finger and Corporal Tunnel, and both are harder to treat in a diabetic. A cortisone shot in the hand can help, but often doesn't.

If you catch it soon, take it easy on the hand, use ice, stretch the fingers, get help early, you might never really have a problem at all. Of course I let mine go way too long because I had never even heard of something called Trigger Finger. I'm hoping the right people will see this post and if it starts happening to them, they will know what it is right away and be able to take care of things before they get in the shape I'm in.

I'm still trying to use ice often, I have a splint for the finger, I've switched to one of the keyboards that's supposed to be better for people with CT, and I'm now using a touch pad instead of a mouse, but so far nothing is helping much. I'm really limiting my computer time and other things that hurt a lot, like pealing and cutting up stuff, or even stirring thing--limiting as much as I can anyway. I'm hoping something will help, but I guess only time will tell.