Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ouch! My Hands Hurt! by C.E. Bailey

For two days, my forearms and wrists flailed about like jelly. And, they ached. After I flopped them limply against my arm chair for the entertainment value, tired of giggling and whining about it, I demanded massages from anyone who passed me by, in other words, my son.

As a writer, this seemingly minor affliction could have more serious consequences, so I risked the pain and typed out my desperate plea to where else? Twitter. Yep, that's what I did. Forget Wikipedia and WebMD and Yahoo Answers. Writers know. There I would also find the sympathy I wasn't getting from my firework obsessed teenage son who claimed his thumbs were sore. This transpired on the 4th of July. Now, I know what you're thinking, "How irresponsible to not go straight to the doctor." In my defense, I always go...once I determine what my diagnosis should be.

And on that note, possible causes of why writers may shout, "OUCH! My Hands Hurt!" as I did 40 times yesterday, whenever my son was in hearing range:

CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME suggested by @salamicat

This occurs most often in people 30 to 60 years old, and is more common in women than men.
Symptoms are:
  • Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of one or both hands
  • Numbness or tingling of the palm of the hand
  • Pain extending to the elbow
  • Pain in wrist or hand in one or both hands
  • Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in one or both hands
  • Wasting away of the muscle under the thumb (in advanced or long-term cases)
  • Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags (a common complaint)
  • Weakness in one or both hands
In addition to seeing a doctor, experts recommend wearing splints at night. In the worst case scenario, surgery may be necessary but with a high success rate after recovery.


  • Pain in the arm, back, shoulders, wrists, or hands (typically diffuse – i.e. spread over many areas).
  • The pain is worse with activity.
  • Weakness, lack of endurance.
In contrast to carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms tend to be diffuse and non-anatomical, crossing the distribution of nerves, tendons, etc. They tend not to be characteristic of any discrete pathological conditions. Yeah, I copied and pasted that from Wikipedia.

@GwenMcCauley made a useful observation that in addition to taking a break and receiving (another) massage, I ought to consider what I was writing. In fact, the emotional nature of my current work, which I described as "nerve wracking" did lend itself to tension and strain. Good cause to take a break.

However, those two common causes do not rule out the possibility of paralytic shellfish poisoning. And if my face and legs had been numb as well AND I was overtaken by a sensation of floating, I would return to the budget Chinese restaurant I had prawns at last night and demand a refund.

I'm most likely to ask my doctor about neuropathy, ataxia, and retinitis pigmentosa, also known as NARP. Undeniably, I fear this rare genetic disorder related to seizures, numbness in limbs, balance disorders, and hearing loss explains all of my symptoms. Maybe, I cannot remember having half of them yet, but I will by the time I reach the clinic.

Unless, that is, I have POEMS syndrome. Yes, when I feel my side, I'm certain my liver may well have enlarged. Oh! The irony of it all. I write one too many tasteless odes and irony, a cruel mistress! Never again.

After my initial bout of hypochondria, a cold compress, and sincere apologies to my exasperated son, I felt fine. However, I intend to visit the doctor and report my symptoms in case the problem reoccurs. Until then, I can continue researching all 74 Causes of Arm Numbness

Because its fun, informative, and the knowledge you'll garnish can trigger uncontrolled eye rolling in any doctor...or even save you from a misdiagnosis.

by Carrie Bailey
Fantasy/Sci-Fi author and host of PeevishPenman, a community blog for writers.
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  1. I have a repetitive stress injury in my right wrist, thanks to too much mouse work. It's not exactly fun, but from everything I've heard and seen, it sure beats the pants off carpal tunnel syndrome. I've had a lot of good luck using the IMAK SmartGlove brace.

  2. Ha ha ha! Love your humor. Hope your hand gets to feeling better soon! :)

  3. In high school, they taught us to hold our wrists straight while we type. I've managed to escape CTS and RSI that way--but this blackberry may get to me.

  4. I am feeling better already. I did what the doctor said and have been wearing wrist braces at night.

    So, it probably wasn't anything serious.

  5. LOL! Your poor son. Your poor wrists!

    I'm glad you're feeling better.

  6. It's true. My son is so tolerant.

    I wrote this post before I tried acupuncture for my weak hands. Turns out there is such thing as needle shock. I passed out in about 5 minutes :).

    But writing is my passion. I'll try anything to keep my wrists healthy.

  7. I have CTS (from an acute injury, but the writing makes it worse on occasion) and I've found that a dab of lavender oil and a brace at night will make the numbness/pain/swelling all go away the next morning. Ice is good when it's really bad, and sleeping with your arms at your side helps (rather than throwing them above your head or under your cheek).

    Good luck with it! It can be painful at times, but if you're careful it won't come back that often :)

  8. That's exactly what I discovered that I had been doing. I bend my hands under my chin. What awkward way to sleep. Obviously something I only would have thought of in the middle of a deep snooze.

  9. Carrie, thanks again for letting me "steal" your post!

  10. I can't believe I'm writing this comment to say: it was Lyme Disease.

    Not something I ever considered with so many different symptoms, but I almost died on the first of August. Now, I am getting treated and am so grateful to still be here.

    I'm going to run around trying to raise awareness for this little known cause of carpal tunnel. The doctors, my family and I dismissed it for years because it was too rare.

    I don't want anyone to ever make that mistake.

    Hugs to everyone at Author Culture!