Wrist pain from typing

Wrist pain from typing

I’ve had a long history with wrist pain from typing, brought on by carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury. People sometimes as me to elaborate, so I’ll elaborate on beating carpal tunnel. I was able to beat it without surgery, and you may be able to as well.

It’s something I struggled with off and on for a good 10 years. Mostly off, in recent years, which is good. At one point, it was so bad I wasn’t able to unload my dishwasher, because I couldn’t grip the plates long enough. It was career threatening too. Read more

How to treat nerve issues with vitamins

In church this morning, the woman sitting behind me told me she was having a nerve issue that was affecting her hearing. She was the second person this month to come to me with a nerve issue, so I wanted to relate how I treated my own nerve issues in the past (which saved me a surgery and saved my career).

First, a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If any of this makes you nervous, talk this over with your doctor. At least in my town, there are a ton of people peddling snake-oil remedies at inflated prices and, essentially, practicing medicine without a license. Doctors go to school for seven years for a reason, so if you have an issue, talk to your doctor about it. Let the doctor know you want to try this out with vitamins too. Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist about any possible interactions between this and whatever other treatments you are doing. Interactions are unlikely, but they went to school for this stuff, so take their word for it over mine.

Are we good? Good. Let’s talk vitamins.

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It’s time for a more holistic approach to depression

Standard disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m a systems administrator by trade and a journalist by training. I write this as a survivor of depression, not as an expert on its treatment. Combined with the experiences of others, I think it’s worth listening to. But it’s no substitute for seeing a specialist.
Earlier this week, after I mentioned my experiences with depression in passing, my mom e-mailed me and asked me a few questions. Thought-provoking questions. Then Dan pointed me to another person’s experience with depression.

It’s been my experience that some people just seem to have a natural tendency towards depression. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Some people are moodier than others, and that moodiness can be exceedingly difficult to be around sometimes, but there’s also a gigantic upside to it. Think of the most creative people you know. I’ll bet most of them are also pretty moody. That’s one factor.

While a student at Mizzou in late 1994 or early 1995, I had a conversation with a girl about depression. I knew she’d struggled with it, and I was curious. We had a long talk one day about it. Initially, in the back of my mind, I thought I’d interview a couple of other people who’d battled it, then interview an expert or three, and write a story about it. It was during that first talk that I learned that depression was sometimes caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Interestingly, I don’t remember my lone college psychology class–that’s science of behavior to Dr. Dave McDonald and his students–talking much about depression. Or maybe we did and I just forgot it.)

Over the years I met a lot of people who were put on Prozac or Paxil or any number of other drugs intended to treat a chemical imbalance in the brain. In most cases they didn’t get the dosage right initially. In those cases the adjustment was difficult. In one case, a good friend of mine had been on it in the past and it helped, then he started to feel himself relapse. He called me one day and told me he was going back on treatment. A few months later, I started to hear stories. Stories that were very out of character. My friend, a gentle giant type if there ever was one, was supposedly very detached from reality and sometimes even dangerously violent. His dosage was wrong and it was destroying him. One night he called me, distraught. He was on the brink of losing everything, and it didn’t seem like anyone understood.

I was mad that the stories of his behavior had become public knowledge. I was also a little irritated with him that when his family and friends suggested there was a problem, that he didn’t go back to see his doctor until it reached crisis stage. But I was livid about how the people around him handled the situation. When there’s a problem with your Paxil dosage, it’s a matter between you and your doctor, and you have to be patient about it and so do the people around you. There is no way to measure brain chemistry and figure out exactly the amount of Paxil you need to get the dosage right. (This was news to him and to his family, and when one of his friends, who happens to hold a PhD in psychology, got involved but didn’t mention this, I was more than livid when I found out about it. If I’d known how to call him on the carpet about it, I would have.)

I haven’t been very good about getting to my point here. There’s a lot of guesswork when you get drugs involved. They don’t necessarily kick in right away. Sometimes they kick in too hard. Sometimes they have undesirable side effects. I mentioned the possible psychotic side effects, but they can also increase your sex drive to an uncontrollable level, and they can lead to very excessive weight gain. Those television commercials showing people playing outside on a sunny spring day while extoling the virtues of those drugs don’t mention anything about their dark side. Since brain chemistry isn’t measurable, you’re playing a guesswork game. Hopefully it’s an educated game of guesswork, but unless you manage to get a referral to a psychiatrist, it may not be.

The late, controversial Dr. Atkins took a different approach to treating chemical imbalances. Where do your brain chemicals come from? Your body makes them. What does your body make them from? The nutrients you take in. What happens when your body doesn’t take in the nutrients it needs to make the necessary brain chemicals? Chemical imbalances that lead to depression. What happens when you change your diet and/or start taking supplements that provide those chemicals?

Atkins said, “no more depression,” then moved on to his next topic.

I think there’s something to that. When carpal tunnel syndrome threatened to destroy both of my careers, one of my readers pointed me to Atkins’ vitamin book. I started taking, among other things, Flax Seed Oil or Fish Oil (buy whichever is on sale; chemically, they offer the same benefit) and Vitamin B6 and B complex. I was surprised at the effect they had on my mood. But that combination promotes a generally healthy nervous system. Vitamin B1, Atkins said, is especially effective in treating depression. The B vitamins work best in the presence of each other, so a trip to the local discount store for a bottle of Vitamin B1 and B complex could make a world of difference.

Battling depression via nutrition is imprecise, but the nice thing about that is that you’re not messing directly with brain chemistry. You’re providing your body with the raw materials to make what it needs. Your body knows how to dispose of excess B1. What’s it supposed to do with excess Paxil?

The best thing you can do for your mental health may very well be to visit a nutritionist. Get a copy of
Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution
, make yourself a shopping list, get a nutritionist’s opinion, then buy. And avoid processed, commercial food if at all possible. I know my moods are much more consistent when I buy fresh fruits and vegetables and actually cook than when I eat tons of fast food or buy heat-up instant meals from the grocery store. Highly processed foods lose most of their nutritional value. They hurt your mood, they hurt your waistline, they hurt your energy level, they rot your teeth, and who knows what else. And when you’re not happy about how you look and you don’t have a lot of energy, and your teeth are falling apart, none of that helps your mood. Nice vicious cycle, eh?

You hear a lot more now about depression than you did in the 1970s and early 1980s. But there were a fraction of the number of fast-food restaurants and grocery stores were much smaller because they were catering to people who cook, whereas today grocery stores seem to cater to people who heat stuff up because everybody’s too busy to cook. I’m thoroughly convinced that these factors are related.

And cooking isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. I can stir up some mean dishes in about half an hour. Trust me, if I can learn how to cook, anyone can. I’m impatient and clumsy and accident-prone. But I’ve still learned how to cook well enough to impress a girl. Not counting my mother and sister, but I’ve impressed them too.

Remember that most doctors have no special training in nutrition. A lot of people are distressed to hear that and think it’s a conspiracy. It’s not. Medicine and nutrition are related, but they’re too complex for most people to be good at both. Asking your regular doctor to be a nutritionist is like asking him or her to be proficient at surgery. He or she is certainly capable of understanding it, but there are so many things a doctor would like to understand, and there are only 24 hours in a day to learn it all.

I believe that counselling and self-help are overrated, but both helped me to a limited degree. I found
I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got
by self-help pioneer Jess Lair to be helpful. It’s sadly out of print but widely available used. The biggest gem out of Lair’s book is a question: Do you have five friends? Lair said that if you have more than that, your friendships aren’t very deep. If you have fewer than that, you’re putting too much burden on them. With an inner circle of five or so, the burden seems to be about right.

But when that’s not enough, counselling helps. The problem with counselling is that sometimes people rely too much on it, or solely on it. Often people have issues they need help resolving. Sometimes that means just listening and offering a few suggestions and sometimes it means re-enacting traumatic experiences in order to finish up some unfinished business. It’s work. But it can be helpful, if you’re willing to do the work. But depression is a complex, multifaceted problem, so a one-pronged attack won’t be very effective. Remember the basic difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist: Psychologists can’t prescribe medicine, and psychiatrists don’t do a whole lot of counseling. Both are aware of the work of the other, and an honest practitioner of either profession ought to know the limits and know when you need the other. But you may have to ask when it’s time to see the other. Human beings tend to get overconfident in the abilities of the tools they have.

Finally, there’s a spiritual aspect. Virtually everything I’ve ever read says you should believe in something. If you’ve ever had any exposure to Christianity, read the books of Luke and John (they’re not terribly long–read a chapter a day and you’ll be through both of them in two months) in a modern, readable translation. You can read them for free at bible.crosswalk.com. For readability, I recommend the New Living Translation. It plays really fast and loose with the translation sometimes, but the point isn’t to make you a Bible scholar–it’s to present the words of Jesus in understandable fashion. Or you can read an out-of-print modern blending of the four Gospels by Charles Templeton titled simply Jesus, online, for free.

Last night I told someone it’s healthier to be an atheist than it is to be in a cult, but it’s healthier to believe in something than nothing. I’m a Christian and make no bones about it. If you’re a not a Christian and you believe something else and you’re struggling with depression, then my advice to you if you’re not really practicing is to get serious. And if you find it’s not helping you, try Christianity.

No single thing will conquer depression for you. But the combination of diet and nutrition, counseling, and spirituality can be potent. Pills are a brute-force approach, and after watching my friend’s bad experience, frankly I believe they ought to be the thing you go to when the other things don’t work, not the thing you go to before trying the others. I know they work because I’ve seen them work, but if anything, the other things can make them more effective, and if you can get by without pumping man-made chemicals into your system, that’s a very good thing, and I don’t think anyone will disagree with that.

It’s Thanksgiving.

It’s time to be thankful. And do I have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve got a Bible study group that’s made up of a couple dozen of the best people you’ll ever meet anywhere. A bunch of us are getting together on Friday just because we like hanging out. You can’t ask for better friends.
I’m thankful that my wrists are working just fine. Vitamin B6 and B complex and Omega-3s are a very good thing. Take lots. They help your wrists feel better and help you think more clearly and make you less moody. What’s better than that? I’m thankful for those, and thankful that someone pointed me to a book that pointed me to that trick. It saved my career and my livelihood.

My computer’s acting up and my Pinnacle DV500 has a mind of its own. I’m thankful that I have the means to afford a powerful computer to do the DV500 justice, the skills to troubleshoot the thing, and once it’s working, the skills to produce something with it that makes it look like I know what I’m doing (even though I honestly don’t have a clue). I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by people with great ideas.

I have to drive two hours yet tonight to see my family. I’m thankful that I have a family to go visit, and that we’re on good terms. I’m also thankful that there are dozens of people who want to know what I’m doing for Thanksgiving. I’m thankful that they care. And I’m thankful that I’ve got a reliable car to get me there, and safely. And as annoying as road construction is, I’m thankful that MODOT is working on I-70, because a year ago that highway was completely unsafe to drive on.

And speaking of unsafe to drive on, I’m thankful that my friend Emily is alive and recovering after that car accident that would have killed any lesser person.

I’m thankful that I start transitioning into a new job starting Tuesday, doing something that challenges me more and that I enjoy more.

And I’m thankful, though still a bit confused about why, people are reading this.

There’s more, but I really need to make a phone call and get packed.

I hope you’ve got as much to be thankful for as I do.

My dark places

I’m not sure when the downward trend started, but Sunday night I went to bed at about 9:30. I didn’t bother setting my alarm; I’m used to sleeping 7-8 hours, which would mean I’d get up on my own before 6 am. Well, at about 8:37 I sat up, looked at the clock, and realized I was way late for work.
When I’m not sick, I can’t sleep more than 9 hours. I’ve tried. It doesn’t matter how tired I am.

I was down all day. I asked my sister what the difference between anxiety and depression are. From what she said, it sounded like I’m dealing with anxiety.

At one point today I remembered when I read The Vita-Nutrient Solution, by the infamous Dr. Atkins, that he talked a lot about depression. Now I remember when I read it that the only way to get any useful information out of it is to read it with a notepad in hand and take notes, because the book is organized very poorly, and the index only gets you about half of what he has to say on the given subject. In short, Atkins is a poor writer, and his indexer is even worse. But I didn’t have time for that. I flipped through the index and I realized something. For repetitive stress injury, skin problems, and depression, there’s a good deal of overlap in the vitamins and herbals that help. I’m prone to all three, and I’ve been prone to all three for a very long time. And my arms have been fine for a long time, so I haven’t been very good about taking my regimen of vitamins. So I took my daily dose, kicking up the B complex, since it’s vitamin B1 and B2 that are more important for mental health. B6 is useful too, but not as useful as the others.

Atkins also said a few other things. The only source for one of the nutrients he recommended is raw, fresh produce. I haven’t been eating much of that for the past month or so. And he said that fats are fuel for the brain. When you’re not bringing in enough fats, your brain doesn’t work right. I haven’t been eating much of those either. So I guess that double burger, chili, fries and milkshake at Steak ‘n’ Shake I was craving Sunday night was actually pretty good for me.

I asked my sister if she thought I might need to see a doctor, since my tendencies in the mental health area seem to recur a lot. I’ll go in for counseling, then I’ll be fine for a couple of years, then I eventually find myself back in the same place again. She said to do it as a last resort, because dosing you on antidepressants is very hit and miss. You try a dose, and if it doesn’t improve, you try a different dosage. Plus the side effects suck. Atkins’ supplement dosages are pretty tight and don’t have the side effects.

And my pastor has said, repeatedly, that if you’re not feeling right, you need to go do something for someone else. I had my opportunity. After work, I stopped in at the grocery store because about the only thing I had left at home to eat was a box of mostaccioli noodles (and no sauce). As I checked out, the cashier was a younger girl. I couldn’t place her age, but I’m pretty sure she was younger than me. She greeted me with a really warm smile. As I was getting ready to pay, we made eye contact again, and she smiled again. And I seem to recall that as I bagged my groceries, she looked over and flashed me that same smile. I didn’t say anything and I found myself regretting it.

As I drove home, and as I fixed dinner, I found myself running dozens of conversations through my head. I had to make things right, I hoped I’d have the opportunity. I made a mental list of other groceries I could get. I always buy just what I need to get by for a couple of days or a week–I’m a bachelor, after all. And when it comes to things like groceries I hate planning ahead. So I drove back to the store. I scanned the checkers as I walked in. She was still there, in aisle 6. So I grabbed some things like potatoes, pancake mix, boxed soup–stuff that keeps forever so you only buy it occasionally, then you only buy it again when you miss it. I got in her line and no one got in behind me. She gave me a knowing look. “Weren’t you here earlier?” she asked.

“Yeah. I forgot some stuff,” I said. Well, it was sort of true.

“Is it cold out?” she asked.

“It’s not bad,” I said.

At some point she flashed that smile again.

“I wanted to tell you, you have the prettiest smile I’ve seen in a really long time,” I said.

Her eyes lit up. “Thank you,” she said. It was really cool.

I didn’t need to say anything else. I’d made her day. I paid and bagged my groceries as she started ringing up the person in line behind me.

As I left, she glanced back in my direction. I mouthed the words, “Good night.” I don’t know what exactly the look she gave me meant, but it definitely didn’t look bad.

Twelve words to make someone’s day. Not bad for a superintrovert like me.

And you know something? I felt a whole lot better too. And I doubt it was the B complex.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll deal with some mail. I haven’t done it yet because I haven’t really felt up to it.

Treat wrist pain naturally

Do you have a weird pain in your lower arms? Do your wrists tingle? Are your wrists tight? It’s possible to treat wrist pain naturally.

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. Our problems came from typing.

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.

Nursing my wrists back to health

Friday, 6/9/00
Dave here… Not back for good yet, but I’m much better today. Thanks go out to all of my well-wishers.

As for treatment… The combination of chiropractics, vitamins and alfalfa seems to be working. My conventional doctors would be aghast, but this stuff’s working, whereas they weren’t interested in listening to what was going on, so until I succeed in finding a local general practitioner who’s interested in listening to patients, I’ll stay this course.

I’m currently on massive doses of alfalfa, which makes me “a freaky hippie vegetarian type who takes it in pill form because he’s too lazy to chew food,” in the opinion of one Tim Coleman. (This–or something very much like it–he said after he asked if I chew my own cud.) Chlorophyl helps joints and cartilige, supposedly, and alfalfa is also rich in a chemical called MSM that according to many sources I’ve found has numerous healing properties. Alfalfa is also reported to be very good at de-toxing the body.

I don’t care so much how it works as much as that it does work. Seeing as it takes an act of Congress to get in to see my regular doctor and he doesn’t have anything useful to say anyway, and a bottle of alfalfa costs $4, I’ll take that route and keep seeing my chiropractor. We’ll know on Monday when he hits me again with the ultrasound how things are going. The less it hurts, the better off I am.

In addition to finding out about alfalfa, my research seems to indicate I’m deficient in magnesium, potasium, and fatty acids (whatever those are). But I’m mostly interested in solving the typing problem. Leg cramps and premature gray hair aren’t keeping me from writing books, after all.

Besides the alfalfa, I’m also on Vitamins E, B complex, and extra vitamin B6. I’ve been on B6 for about a month; the others for a little over a week I think.

Well, I should be in absolute agony by now, but I’m not. I’m going to back off now, though. Your first move after stepping out of the wheelchair shouldn’t be to run the Boston Marathon.

Important disclaimer: I claim to know absolutely nothing about why any of this stuff works and whether it would be suitable for anything. Yes, so my dad, grandfather, and grandmother were all doctors. They knew the human body inside and out and knew nothing about computers. I know computers inside and out and know nothing about the human body, other than that I’ve got one.

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