Sunday, June 3, 2012

Work Your Fingers to the Bone, What do you Get?

Well, shirt.

I've been proud of myself lately: I've really been in the groove, making like a mad bastard, after my little self-pep-talk about production. And what do I get for it? Not bony fingers, like the old song suggests; instead I get tendonitis!

Actually I don't know that it's tendonitis, but it is wrist pain on the back side, with no attendant numbness, and happens when I've been throwing for a while. It's mild, fortunately, but frightening nevertheless: what if it got worse? What if I couldn't work?

I'm not gonna panic, here; The Vulcan in me says to rest my wrist, and research some treatments.

I have no health insurance, so professional intervention is a last resort, but Dr. Google has some suggestions for me:

Home Treatment
Home treatment options for tendonitis include:
  • Icing the wrist to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow
  • Using over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease the swelling and manage pain (Warning: only use pain medication at times of rest to reduce the chance of further injury)
  • Exercise to strengthen the injured area once symptoms have been reduced


Wrist Stretches

Gently roll your wrists clockwise for 15 seconds, then reverse direction. Go as far into the full range of motion as you can, feeling the stretch as you do so. Another stretch is to hold one hand out with the palm up and, with your other hand, gently ease your fingers backwards in the direction of your elbow, feeling the stretch through your palm and inner wrist. Release, then turn your hand over so the palm is down. Again gently pull your fingers toward your elbow, feeling the stretch over the back of your hand and top of your wrist.

Thumb Stretch

Make a thumbs-up with one hand. With the other hand, gently press the base of the thumb forward -- don't pull backward on the thumb tip. This stretch is especially helpful if you regularly type or text message on a wireless device, since repetitive motion is one cause of wrist tendonitis.

Flexion Exercises

Wrist flexion is when you pivot your wrist downward so that your palm moves closer to the inside of your arm. For flexion exercises, begin with your hand outstretched and in line with your forearm, palm down. Keeping your forearm still, lower your hand so your fingers move to point toward the ground. Go as far as your wrist and hand allow without pain, then raise your hand back to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.

Extension Exercises

Wrist extension is the opposite of wrist flexion -- moving your wrist so that the back of your hand approaches the top of your arm. Wrist extension exercises begin in the same position as the wrist flexion exercises. Again keeping your forearm still, raise your hand so your fingers move to point toward the ceiling. Go as far as you can without pain, then return to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.

Tendon Gliding Exercises recommends tendon gliding exercises -- not to build strength, but to improve lubrication in the tendons for greater ease of motion. To do them, start with a flat hand. Touch your fingertips to the top of your palm --- or as close as you can get --- then release. Touch your fingertips to the center of your palm, then release. Then touch your fingertips to the bottom of your palm and release. For your thumb, move it back from your palm as if you're hitch-hiking, then try to touch the base of your pinky finger. Do all of these slowly and gently, and repeat up to 10 times.

I am greatly encouraged that the livestrong article suggests that, once the episode is past, stretching can prevent recurrence. I am sort of kicking myself, because when I used to type for 7 hours a day, I stretched my wrists frequently. I already knew my calling would require daily back seems like those were two pretty easy dots to connect. 

Oh, well. I do have lots of non-throwing work to do, so it seems like I'll be doing that today.


Barbara Rogers said...

I had similar condition about a month ago...having lifted a very heavy object with just fingertips...anyway, I did go to doc, who Xrayed wrist to be sure I hadn't cracked a bone. Nah. He splinted my thumb (where most of my pain was) and I ran around about 2 weeks in a standard carpel tunnel type wrist brace (not the correct brace, but it kept me from using that wrist). Also no throwing, just did slab work for a while. Then gradually have gotten back to throwing... but have adjusted my centering technique so I push with the heel of my palm off my knees, not the mound below the thumb. Just what worked for me. YES exercises too!

Lori Watts said...

I was thinking about wrapping an Ace bandage around it, not because I really think the bandage would do much, but because it would remind me. I already center with the heel of my hand - but of course my pain is in my wrist, so the position exacerbates the problem. I do know other ways to center, having learned them for teaching purposes, so - after my rest-break - I may try using one of those instead.

RTB said...

Wedging is murder on wrists. Rest your wrist and wear a brace to help it rest. Hope you feel relief soon.

Lori Watts said...

Good point - some of my discomfort happens while wedging. Maybe skip the reclaim and just use new clay for a while.

- Cindy - said...

The exercises are not hogwash! In periods where I've been very productive with pots, I've managed to make my hands and wrists very unhappy. For me, it's the carving I do. The things that worked for me were:

-Frequent breaks
-On these frequent breaks, get a cup of something cold or hot to put your hands around (screw icepacks, we have mugs!). I'm no doc, so maybe someone says heat or ice is better, but in the winter when the studio is icy, the hot stuff felt better, and in the summer...
-Stretches! Until they were like a nervous tick, but preferable to the pain
-Change of process... I don't mean not doing what you want, but for me I did some 'bigger carving' with less details on big pots that took longer to make and less time to carve. Also examining dumb stuff in your process that can be tweaked, like for me, sharpening my tools more often means easier to carve means less pain. For you this maybe means a break from wedging (or different method, or borrow some time with a pugmill), centering differently, etc.

Good luck!