Giving the wrist a break

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life73 Comments

Going to be taking a needed break from typing for a few days, of any kind. Never had any numbness and loss of strength in the old hand…the tool that allows me to have a career in design (no, no self pity detected there) and two days ago it started.

Real common for designers who spend hours and hours working that little mouse, much like me. Going to a specialist today. Remaining guardedly optismistic. (Actually, that’s not true. I am pretty much seeing my entire livelihood spinning frantically down the drain in the toilet bowl of life, and the last thing you see is my hand, with a carpal tunnel handbrace firmly attached, waving as it fades from view.) But who knows…

It’s just…my other skills don’t really translate into income.

Back soon.

Cathy ZielskeGiving the wrist a break

73 Comments on “Giving the wrist a break”

  1. #1

    Hey, try to be optimistic. If this is the first that you’ve experienced the hand numbness, you’re far from the unemployment line. Take that from another woman who types and manipulates a mouse for a living – I’m only 32 and was having the same problem. My employer got me an ergonomically correct workstation and I’m good as new again.

    Good luck at the doctor!

  2. #2

    Optimism is a good thing, and yeah, I’d be totally in your shoes with those same visuals floating before me. Only yours didn’t include a dunkin donuts cup and a cardboard sign.

    ANYWAY, you caught it early, you aren’t ignoring symptons, and you are being proactive. There are treatments beyond surgery. It will be ok. Really.

  3. #4

    I’ve got it too. It sucks, but its not the end of the world. If all else fails, grab a pencil, insert between teeth and peck away. Where there’s a will..yada yada. Oh and good luck. I hope its as simple as a change of position. Would that all of life’s problems could be solved this way.

  4. #5
    Tracey P.

    Don’t panic yet! I had a job that was computer heavy and my right hand/wrist suffered. A cortisone shot and brace for a few weeks did the trick. Never hurt again. I also (temporarily) learned how to work the mouse with my left hand. It didn’t take long to get used to it either.

    Good luck!
    Tracey P.

  5. #6
    Madeline R

    No words or wisdom here. Theater doesn’t cause this one. But I do have to say that there is no way that your voice and design talent will ever be silenced. They are too important to us! won’t happen. You just need a little vacation.

  6. #7

    Hey CZ.. This must be scary for you, but I hope that they come back with some solutions for you at the specialist. Sending you lots of positive thoughts!

  7. #9
    Jen G.

    Honestly this is the first time I have responded. But I am a massage therapist with Chiropractic Techincian degree. Try a good chiropractor and good massage therapist. We have both at our clinic in central MN, not far of a drive for you!!
    We have had really great success with these types of injuries. With all the technology these days, we are seeing repetitive work injuries a lot. I really know it can help, I have seen it all the time. Worth a try, surgery is so final, try all options first. Good luck and take care.
    P.S.I really didn’t want to sound like a commercial, however, I do what I do to help people.

  8. #10
    Tara (aka AbbysMomma)


    If this is the first you felt, it then it’s likely it’s early. Take heart…I bet with the right schedule and taking care of it you can continue to design.

    HUGS! Good luck with the appt.

  9. #11

    ahh man!! and i was just going to invite you to go see Crowded House with me here in California!!!

    and i agree, no worries,!! with all the technology today — you could have Simple get you a voice operated computer!! then you won’t have to worry about your hands!!

    prayers to you!! smooch!!

  10. #15

    Good luck! That happens to me, too. I happens on both hands though because I do repeatative movements with my left had at the keyboard. I’ve always taken off some time as well. Been lucky and it’s worked – so far. Massage your arms, hands and fingers a lot! Rest them and hopefully dems limbs will simmer down πŸ™‚

    and great, now MY wrists hurt. Sympathy pains anyone? πŸ˜‰

  11. #17

    carpal tunnel does pretty much suck ! but luckily for me it doesn’t hold me back financially…
    hope everything turns out ok.
    oh, and not that this is funny…but your posts most always crack me up…it’s the outlook that you have…
    keep it up !

  12. #18

    hang in there. same deal here for the same reason but its not the done deal – i got a newtype mouse and a new workstation and it makes it easier – still have crappy days when the weather chanegs ie when we’re due a good thunderstorm but massage and the odd cortizon shot and all is well.. i know its scary but you’re not dead yet!!

  13. #19

    For whatever it’s worth, I suffered through carpal tunnel for years, until it got to be almost constantly numb or burning. I was SO tired of always shaking my hands awake, or not being able to sleep. The surgery was simple and outpatient, the healing was quick, and it was the best thing I could have done. I have virtually no scar (had a great hand surgeon). I can’t believe I waited so long. So…Ms. Z, if it comes to that, at least from my experience, the surgery was very worthwhile. Hope it doesn’t last, though….have a restful day.

  14. #21
    Lyn Meeker

    I know it is a long shot .. but if I were to ask you for your snail mail address .. because I was working on something that would absolutely make you ga-ga .. (and no it is not 100 or even 1000 rubber duckies…) and it might take a few days or maybe a few months .. but I know you would end up doing cartwheels over it (even if you have never performed a cartwheel in your life…) would you email it to me?

    I could give you a hint .. it’s all about connections …

    (I promise I would not give it out to just anybody…)

  15. #23
    Terri Barton

    Carpal tunnel syndrome, yes I remember it well. But since I had surgery on both hands (wrists, whatever) have not had a problem. simple surgery, quick recovery. I had one done at a time. Not so bad, really. And if you are just starting to experience it, that could be a while off! Good luck at the doc, and chin up!!!! Just think WWCD! (what would Chippy Do?)(sorry I am so irreverant, but my family and I have hijacked this phrase and use it waaay to much!!!)

  16. #25

    Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most misdiagnosed ailments of the hand and wrist. Surgery should be the very, very last resort. If what you have is NOT CTS,and they do surgery for CTS, then you could end up in a worse situation than you started with.

    This is simply a warning to be aware of what the doctor says, ask for therapeutic remedies before going under the knife.

  17. #26

    Oooo, sending big hugs your way. I sometimes switch it up and use the left hand, like Tracy, just to ease the achiness. Hope all goes well!

  18. #27

    One thing I have done that helped (after I got the thing rehab-ed. I actually had “tennis elbow”…from my computer!)was to add a timer that reminds me every 30 minutes to take a stretch break. I keep a picture of the exercises by my computer…and actually do them and hold them for the full 20-30 seconds recommended.

    I use because it’s free.

  19. #28

    My mil had to have surgery for hers & her wrist is like new. Recovery was fairly minimal too…..hope all goes well at the drs.

  20. #29

    good luck Cathy,I would be so bummed without you to read and laugh with everyday. I get the numbness too, which is a bitch for knitting. Physical therapy helps.

  21. #30

    That sounds scary but try not to freak out too much just yet. My hubby has struggled with exactly what you are describing for years (he’s builds computer software). He had acupuncture and it really did help. You may want to give that a whirl. It’s much less invasive than surgery. Good luck!

  22. #31
    stephanie t.

    Don’t worry yet…Ya just never know what’s what until you get all the information!

    Simple surgery if it’s carpal tunnel…that plus bone spurs in my thumbs and a ‘trigger finger’ makes it a little more dicey. I’ve cancelled the surgery 4 times now…just not ready to give-up my hands to the surgeon yet. Rest, naprosyn (advil), hand splint and soaks have kept me going. It’s quite livable.
    Surgery scheduled for the ‘trigger finger’ on the 19th…and ONLY that…the rest will have to come later.
    Rest your hands…Grab your flavor-ice and go PLAY!

  23. #33
    Jen Donnelly

    Get a Wacom, a couple of wrist braces, and a big bottle of Naproxen. Take a few days off. You’ll be fine! It’s scary, but I’ve had it off and on for like fifteen years now. I’m ok, you’ll be ok.

  24. #34
    Maria Hammon

    Be optimistic. I’ve had it for many years. The pain comes and goes. But I also type all day (I’m a Paralegal at a law firm) and have been doing that since 1993. And, as you know, I also blog quite frequently, so I do quite a bit of typing. Usually, I’ll let it rest for a few days when it gets really bad. You’ll be okay! Sending hugs to you.

  25. #35

    Please go to a specialist—because if it gets worse and goes untreated, then you can permanently lose some feeling and have nerve damage!! I’ve had the surgery and it was easy. That was almost 5 years ago–no pain. I work at a bank and county TONS of money all day long, so mine was bad. Please take care!!!

  26. #37

    sorry to hear about the pain in your hand. when that happens to me i sleep with a brace at night…seems to help. hope you get some good news at the doc! take care.

  27. #38
    Megan Renfree

    Ok so I was coming here to post the link for the crowded house article, but Pip beat me to it :o)

    Bummer about your hand! Definately go to a specialist though as my Dad has the same thing a few years ago from driving trucks, and he had an operation on on both his hands/wrists and since they have been right as rain!!!

  28. #39
    Dawne Carlisle

    Try switching the mouse to your other hand. It sounds impossible – but you get used to it really quickly. Change the setup on your Mac to make the mouse for left handed – and move it to the other side of your keyboard. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you get used to it!

  29. #40
    Kristi B

    The posters seem to have covered it all. 1st thing is to check your workstation. Chair/monitor/mouse. They have all different types of mouses that can help. Also, most doctors try conservative treatment before surgery (physical therapy, injections, resting, etc). Those that eventually have surgery heal quickly & are back at the computer! Hope your appt went well. πŸ™‚

  30. #41

    My husband had 8 weeks off and had both his hands operated on one at a time by keyhole surgery. They have never been better 3 years down the track and none of the pain he experienced before. For him it was the best choice he made.

  31. #42

    Ok, so I know you were going for sad and worried, but that image of you waving from the toilet bowl had me cracking up! I hope the dr has some good ideas for you. I know it’s scary… On the other hand, my dad is a textile designer who started designing way back before computers and did all of the design work by hand in teeny tiny square of paint. He has focal distonia now and lost motor control in his left hand. The good news, though, is that he was able to teach himself to write, etc., with his right hand, so he can still do what he’s good at. I think his dr gave him exercises and stuff to do, too. Anyway, good luck. I’ll be thinking about ya!

  32. #43
    Katie the Scrapbook Lady

    wearing my brace as I type this – LOL! Taking a few days off helped me a lot but I also depend on this machine for just about everything so I’ve adapated. I’ll be sending positive vibes your way.

  33. #44

    I have worked in high-tech for years, used to suffer with hand-numbness terribly, and was finally told by my medical doctor that I needed surgery. Although I was a HUGE sceptic, my husband (a mechanic who once suffered the same symptoms) convinced me to try chiropractic before I agreed to surgery. His argument was, “At least check chiropractic out, your check-up is covered by insurance, and what do you have to lose?”

    Well, chiropractic saved me (and my husband). I’ve been pain-free for a few years now, still work in high-tech, and never did have the surgery. So Cathy, please at least consider alternative methods before considering anything drastic – it worked for me. (And no, I’m not a chiropractor!)

  34. #45

    Hey Cathy! I know you’ll be fine and back to your wonderful self in no time. I experienced the beginning of carpal tunnel a few years back and I even tried wearing a brace a couple of times, which was a pain. I got a mousepad with wrist support, and I switched the hand that I was using to control my mouse and the pain is gone! Good luck! πŸ™‚

  35. #46

    I’d hire you…curious about your occupation???

    ‘Personal comedian’ – how does that work? πŸ˜‰

    Just take it easy, nothing is worth permanently injuring yourself! Good luck, kid πŸ™‚

  36. #47

    I hope the specialist you are going to see tomorrow is an orthopedist..better still, one who has a hand specialty. If this is the first time you’ve had this problem, it can probably be taken care of with a cortisone shot and a wrist brace for a while. Don’t panic yet! Ibuprofen is great for any discomfort.

  37. #48

    Carpal tunnel syndrome? You ARE an optimist! When I have problems with my hands, I become convinced that I have Lou Gehrig’s disease. Carpal tunnel becomes my BEST case scenario.

    Still, I hope your hands are perfectly fine, and I’ll be sending good health vibes your way!

  38. #49

    keep positive – there are lotsa options besides surgery..which should be the last resort. AND don’t forget, it may not be as serious as you’re imagining!

    hang in ther, we’re all pulling for you!

  39. #50

    Hey cutie…be sure to check out all of the alternatives…perhaps rest being one of them…and…shhhh…acupuncture…take care!

  40. #52

    Hey Cathy! Its Jeremy from the plane ride to SLC. I like the pics on your blog so far, I’ve only read a little bit of what you wrote and its great!

  41. #53
    Nikki Peck

    Oh man. I know the feeling. Mine cycles. Oddly enough, if I am not typing so much and am instead writing more, it flares. I do transcription work for a hospital and now, from pushing the foot pedal to hear the dictation, my right leg is flaring up with tarsal tunnel!!! Yikes! I’m 32. Scares the crap out of me! Good luck with the specialist. I hope it’s some positive news. Sorry, you have no idea who I am, but I do read your blog and have loved your work in SS and your books for years.

  42. #55
    Elizabeth Jones

    Hello, hello! I haven’t ever commented, but I know exactly what you’re going through so I thought….what the heck! I’m a mere 23 (Carpal Tunnel knows no age!) and last year while completing some grueling drafting classes and working as the sole in house designer at a stationery/invitation shop I got the dreaded numbness and tingling. I thought it was the end of me (I have a flair for the dramatic) and was completely resigned to rushing people’s windshields for a pittance or something. I talked to my instructor, my boss, and the ladies at the university health center, eventually deciding to take a few days off. A little advil, a lot of massage and stretching. Now I am fine and have learned to recognize the early symptoms and take it easy when I get twichy. Good luck with everything. It will work out, just listen to your doctor and don’t rush into surgery. Take care.

  43. #56

    Hi Cathy,
    You’re so right to take care of this immediately.

    I suffer from debilitating carpal tunnel, and, like you, I make my living with my hands.

    I had a very good chiropractor who advised me against surgery and who was able to get me into remission for almost two years. Since she retired the problem had been creeping back. One thing she told me was to get rid of my regular pillows and get a contoured pillow instead. She said many CT problems actually start in the neck. This was very helpful advice.

    You do have to make compromises, though. I can see that I’m going to have to give up my 70-200 lens. The weight really exacerbates my symptoms. Fortunately, my second photographer has mastered this piece of equipment, so he will use it instead. Still, it’s awful to suddenly have limitations.

    I’ve never talked to anyone who said the surgery helped, but your mileage may vary.

    The test for nerve damage is just awful. “Discomfort” my a**!! Don’t believe it. But then, you have given birth, so maybe it’s all relative.

    Take care. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

  44. #57

    Hi Cathy,
    I was doing a lot of designing for a former job and developed overuse tendonitis. I was sure it was carpal tunnel, it hurt so bad and I thought I was doomed! But a brace worn at night, and a new WIRELESS optical mouse with lots of buttons for clicking and scrolling instead of me having to move my whole hand/wrist did the trick. The wireless was key because I could put that mouse anywhere on the desk, even on my lap if I wanted and it gave me options to use my hand in different positions. I haven’t had a problem since.
    Best wishes to you!

  45. #58
    Susan W.

    Another vote for the chiropractor. Please consider seeing one before you resort to surgery. A chiropractor can help your CT without any invasive techniques. Make sure you find one that can adjust extremeties. I have a wonderful chiro that not only adjusts my back, but also my shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees. I feel like a new woman every time I leave the office.

    Your numbness may stem from the nerves in your neck being pinched. They go from your neck all the way down your arms to your wrists and hands. If you get cortisone or surgery it may only be a temporary fix if indeed it stems from your nerves in your neck.

    I’m not trying to sound like a freak, just wanted to share another point of view, one that has helped me tremendously. πŸ™‚ Good luck Cathy. xoxo

  46. #60

    Hi Girl

    You poor thing. Hope the prognosis is good from the specialist. We had a fire drill at work on Wednesday and I have to climb down 17 flights of stares. My legs!!! But hopefully it will be all over redrover by Sunday. I so feel my age, my size and my unhealthy lifestyle today.

    Best wishes for a speedy resolution

  47. #61

    had it.

    Had massage on my forearms/wrist and reflexology done on my hands. Between the two its golden now. Seriously no surgery needed.

  48. #62

    Anxiously awaiting word as to the medical status of your wrist. (Actually, I woke up thinking about it this morning but that’s so scary that I probably shouldn’t mention it.) If typing is not an option, please send smoke signals. Wait until the winds are northerly, as I am in Florida. I will be watching the northern skies. Peace. πŸ™‚

  49. #65

    I’m missing your daily posts and your slightly-off center take on life. You make me laugh with almost every entry. Therefore, it is with great selfishness that I wish you good health and a speedy recovery.

    Big bucks, no whammies. πŸ™‚

  50. #66

    I had the start of CTS….and caught it in time…doc had me get the big ole Windows split/curved keyboard. Took about an hour to get used to it. CTS healed and I’ve not had any problems since. I use it with my laptop. I’m a programmer….and use my laptop constantly so not typing is not an option. My hands healed totally without surgery after about 6 months. That was about 8 years ago and I’m still going strong at 55 years old. Hope this helps. It’s not sexy using that big ole keyboard, but it works. Pam

  51. #67

    Nooooooooooooooooo! I will go into withdrawal and, of course, it is all about me! Type with your nose!!!!!!!!

    Seriously, hope it gets better soon.

  52. #68

    Cathy, this doesn’t have to be the ‘end of the world’ just because you MAY have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Most insurance companies require physical therapy before you have to do any surgery. See if your PT is familiar with a (new to this area) process called ASTYM. The PTs I work for are making FABULOUS improvements for their patients with this process.

  53. #69

    Man! I couldn’t get through reading all the responses, but this won’t be news…talk to Jen G – she’s right on the money. I’m a licensed massage therapist and had the same problem, for the same reason (too much digital design work!). Rest it, but see about therapy. Trigger point therapy. Do NOT let them cut on you. A good MT and/or chiropractor will have you pain-free in no time. I also developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot – pain free and normal again after 2 months of self-treatment. And the bladder thing? Sorry, but your doc sounds like an idiot. Look for a new doc who wants you to be healthy! Don’t let them just shove pills at you so you go away. Sometimes the side affects from the pills are worse than the cure. Hugs!

  54. #70

    Another vote for the chiropractor here. I had numbness and tinglin in my right arm a few years ago. The medical doctors besides their testing, had nothing but pills to help my pain and even thru the pills, I could feel pain. I spent months sleeping 1-2 hours per night as the pain was too much to be able to sleep and no position was confortable. It’s the chiro that found that I had 2 stuck vertebras in my neck. Since then, I have been using ergonomic work station with a touch pad with the natural microsoft keyboard. I have learn to listen better to my body. Hope that your pain goes away really fast, Cathy. Big hugs going your way and yes, you are certainly allowed to have a pity party once in a while ! πŸ™‚


  55. #71


    I had the numbness going on, too, and then I got a Wacom Tablet to use with my laptop, plus a laptop desk and ergonomic chair. The numbness went away in days….I kid you not!

  56. #72

    Hi Cathy. First time posting. I love your blog, you’re hilarious! Sorry about your pain. I too had the numbness/tingling. CTS testing came back negative. Have narrowing of the c5-6 vertebrae (in the neck). Also, just found out I have calcific tendinitis (calcium deposits in the tendons of the shoulder). Cortisone and Physical therapy doing wonders! Also, for the bladder trouble — try kegels — (exercises). If you’re not familiar with them, ask your gyn. They can describe the process for ya. And yes, your dr. sounds like a jerk, to put it mildly. Good Luck. Feel better soon.

  57. #73

    Girl, you are HILARIOUS! πŸ˜€ Had carpal tunnel syndrome for a couple of months-didn’t opt for the operation. It went away on its own. So don’t let it go down the drain waving wildly away… (I heard CPT sometimes happens when your seat that you use to work is too low so that you end up straining your wrist to work the mouse…but I’m no doctor, so… πŸ™‚ but when I adjusted the position of my chair, my CPT never did come back. Who knows? πŸ™‚ ) Take care!

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