Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m a web developer who had wrist pain from computer use. This is not medical advice. It’s the story of how I fixed my wrist pain. I have no affiliation with Apple and receive no commission if you buy the Apple trackpad mouse.
In 2017, I had been a web developer for about three years, DIY recording engineer for eight years, and a piano player for sixteen years. Around that time, I started noticing chronic pain developing in my right wrist. I was working only about 30 hours per week as a freelance web developer, but I was also playing piano, recording music, and using my computer for other mundane tasks like managing finances. I probably spent 40 – 50 hours per week on the computer max. This is when I started to develop concern for my livelihood. I didn’t want to stop doing any of my hobbies, but I really didn’t want to loose my career or get surgery. Among the more tangible causes of the wrist pain listed above, was a developing case of leaky gut. I’m sure that played a part in my wrist pain too.
The Search for the Solution
One thing I had the luxury to try that many people don’t was to work less. I moved to a rural area and split my time between construction work and computer work. Although I knew I hadn’t really fixed the cause of the wrist pain, it was good enough for me because the wrist pain stopped accelerating. To me, that made it sustainable. Plus, it was only bad when I worked a lot, and that was a rarity.
After relocating from my rural place of domicile to the beautiful San Diego, I realized I needed more income and more work. This meant more hours on the computer. The constant soreness in my wrist started again and was getting worse all the time. After a few months, I was concerned again. I got some books and tried different computer mice like trackball and ergonomic vertical mice, but nothing was working well enough to fix the problem – my wrist couldn’t keep up with the way I was using it on a daily basis. One of the most helpful books was “Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Self-Care Program” by Sharon J. Butler. This book has a lot of helpful exercises to help heal occupational stress injuries. While the exercises helped, I knew that I need to start using my hand differently if I wanted to be pain free. This book also gave me a better understanding of how I needed to change the way I was using my arm and hand differently.
I know there are a lot of fancy typing/mouse interface devices out there. This is just one that worked really well for me and is very cheap – the Apple Magic Trackpad mouse turned vertically. Any trackpad mouse should provide the same benefit. I’m a mac user, and the Apple trackpad mouse is just the one I bought. The main reason I’m writing this article is because I had to use it in a non-standard way to really fix the problem. When you use a “normal” mouse, the palm of your hand faces down. This means your forearm muscles have to hold up at least your first two mouse clicking fingers. For me it was difficult to keep my hand fully relaxed when I was really focused on building something or troubleshooting a problem, so I often had my whole hand and forearm engaged. Normal trackpad mouse positioning allows you to leave some of the weight of your fingers and hand on the trackpad all the time. This by itself can help. It may or may not be enough for you. It wasn’t enough for me. I knew I needed to supinate my hand more to get it to a completely neutral position and only engage muscles when I was clicking or moving the mouse pointer. What finally worked was to put the apple trackpad mouse vertically against the monitor shelf I created. See how in the picture at the top of the page, my hand is in a completely neutral position. My fingers are on the mouse and arm muscles are only engaged when clicking.
That allows my forearm, hand, and wrist to relax enough between clicks and mouse moves that my wrist doesn’t get sore. If I work a lot, I have to be more mindful of my wrists, because they will get sore if I push them hard enough. I use both my left and right hands to control the mouse to further break up the work load. I highly recommend this strategy too. Let me know in the comments if you’ve discovered any tricks to mitigate your repetitive strain injuries.