Do you have a weird pain in your lower arms? Do your wrists tingle? Are your wrists tight?
I’ve heard two people describe these things in the past month, now a friend’s written the same thing on his Web site. Of course, my wrists are notorious. They effectively ended my book writing career.
First things first: Make some adjustments. Sit down and put your hands at your keyboard. Lower your chair until your legs make an upside-down L. Now do your arms make an L shape? If not, you absolutely need to get a keyboard drawer and/or another chair. Get one with adjustable armrests so you can support your arms. Rest them on your armrests lightly. Trust me: It’s cheaper than treatment.
Go see your doctor. Make sure he’s not knife-happy. He can recommend wrist supports, splints, and other treatments that help. You should always try that stuff first. The surgery can have side effects. To my way of thinking, it’s better to leave your body how God designed it and try to help it heal itself.
There are no effective drug treatments for repetitive stress injuries, other than painkillers. Talk to your doctor about vitamins.
Check all this stuff that follows out with your doctor first. This was the advice I got from reading several different books, and it worked pretty well for me.
The standard treatment for repetitive stress injuries is vitamin B6. Don’t take more than 200 mg of it a day–that may have harmful side effects. 100-125 mg is a good dosage; it leaves enough leeway that you can still take a multivitamin and/or a B complex, plus whatever small amounts of B6 you get from diet.
B6 works best in the presence of the other B vitamins, so you should also pick up a B complex. Precise dosage doesn’t seem to matter much. I buy whatever B complex I can find and take one capsule.
You can also complement B6 by taking a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is “good fat,” while Omega-6 is “bad fat.” Omega-3 is used for, among other things, nerve regeneration. The best sources of Omega-3 are fish oil or flaxseed oil. I take 1000 mg of either of them daily. Dietary sources of Omega-3 include eggs from free-range chickens and fatty fish like salmon. But a free-range egg gives you 100 mg. So it would appear that two eggs for breakfast and salmon for lunch and dinner would still leave you a bit short. Plus eating all those eggs will give you other problems. Buy the free-range eggs anyway, because of the improved nutrition over the cheap caged eggs, and eat more salmon, but don’t expect miracles from them.
Some people add 400 mg of magnesium to the mix. Magnesium is an anti-inflammatory.
In addition to the standard-bearers (B6, B complex, Omega-3, Magnesium) I’ve also used alfalfa and MSM. Alfalfa’s a good source of a large number of vitamins and minerals, which is why that works. MSM is also a good anti-inflammatory, and some people believe the body uses MSM to regenerate nerves and other tissues. I don’t think anyone totally understands how or why MSM works. The first bottle of MSM I got billed it as a natural painkiller, and while its effect wasn’t like, say, aspirin, it did seem to calm down the nerve that RSI irritates.
As far as exercise, there are stretches your doctor should be able to show you. A friend I know who’s a physical trainer says the first thing you should do any time you feel pain is to figure out what hurts, then do the opposite. I used to keep a baseball bat next to my computer. When I’d tighten up, I’d take the bat, walk into an open area, and swing the bat around for a while. If you swing the bat with proper technique, where you rotate your wrists and at the end of the swing your right hand is actually out front (or your left hand, if you bat left-handed), you’ll loosen your wrists up pretty quickly. People gave me funny looks when they saw the bat next to the computer, and funny looks when they saw me swinging a bat in the hallway or in the living room, but it helped. Find an exercise that tends to make your wrists pop. It’ll help.