Okay, so this post has nothing to do with the topics normally considered to be within our wheelhouse—no punk rock, cult films or other avant garde zaniness here—but if you or someone you know suffers from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or severe tendonitis from working on a computer all day, read on, I hope this will be of (great and lasting) benefit.
As the editor of a blog and a small business owner, I’m generally online most of the day and it’s not at all unusual for me to be at a keyboard for twelve hours at a time with few breaks. I fit into the category of extreme workaholic, but since around May of last year, my body has been trying to send me a message I wasn’t heeding: a painful tendonitis afflicting my right hand and arm due to squeezing a mouse and right-clicking all day. It went very quickly (a matter of weeks) from being a minor but persistent irritation to becoming a “9” out of ten on the pain scale. From my wrist to my elbow, my inner arm felt raw, red and swollen.
The top of my hand was worse, with my “mouse finger” feeling like it was soon going to become useless altogether, as in my hand felt like it was on the verge of no longer functioning much like a hand anymore. Not only did it really hurt when I was working, even when I was away from my desk, it made common activities like washing dishes, opening a car door, brushing my teeth or even wiping my ass excruciatingly painful. Anything I had to grip at the gym was a problem. I began to wonder how much longer I could take doing what I do for a living before I had to go on a long break, or get an operation or some sort of physical therapy.
I mean it really sucked. BIGTIME. And no one ever feels sorry for you for having a repetitive strain disorder unless they’ve been troubled with it themselves. You seem fine, and you look just fine, but the reality is, it’s super depressing when you lose the proper use of your hand and your livelihood itself causes you lots and lots of pain. A little over three weeks ago, I dropped and smashed a Coke bottle in the shop around the corner. It slipped right out of my hand as I stood in line and exploded on the floor. It was embarrassing enough, but I’d dropped something equally messy the day before in the very same shop. I didn’t even feel it slip out of my grip. Like I say, depressing!
After that I decided to get aggressive and went online to research my options. The first advice you read—and it’s sage wisdom—is to STOP doing whatever it is that you are doing that is causing the problem in the first place (i.e. what I was doing at that very minute). That’s great advice if you don’t have to worry about making a living, but unsatisfying for those of us who do.
A lot of the advice centered around alternate keyboards and ergonomic mice. To that end, I bought the RollerMouse Red “ergonomic mouse-central pointing device” from Contour, which reviewed very well and came with a money back guarantee and free FedEx shipping. It’s not cheap, but it made a significant difference and I found it easy to get used to. I liked it so much that I bought an ergonomic mouse from Contour as well, which I loved at first, but then came to find that it made my problem even worse than it already was. (This is not to say the same would happen for you. Contour Design’s product line is very, very well-thought out and I am using the RollerMouse Red to type this.)
Nearly ready to admit defeat, as of three or four weeks ago, I was starting to investigate speech recognition software and picking up the phone again for the first time in years instead of writing email. I bought another mouse that’s shaped like a pen, an Anker vertical mouse (which I like and use, but it’s not perfect) and one that works sort of like a joystick. Nothing really produced any sort of improvement (save for the RollerMouse Red) let alone a breakthrough.
Reading on Amazon about the various CTS “splint glove” arm guard options and then realizing that most people say they don’t work at all (which seems obvious the minute you put one on) I kept clicking until I came across the inexpensive M BRACE RCA. It was $20 and had amazing reviews. Why not? If it brought ANY relief whatsoever, it was worth more than 20 bucks and if it turned out to be snake oil, it was only 20 bucks. Despite the stellar reviews, my hopes were muted.
The M BRACE RCA is a Velcro-fastened wristband with an angled plastic piece that’s meant to fit over your wrist. THAT’S IT. My first thought was “How’s this going to work?” I looked at the box for instructions or any information about it, but all it basically said was “make a fist, pull strap tight, but not too tight, fasten” The packaging really offered… not much of anything.
I put it on at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon. I remained skeptical and I was annoyed at first by the feel of the plastic brace on my wrist. Within a few hours I noticed not just a slight reduction in pain, but actually a significant change! I had cause for optimism if this unassuming device could work that fast.
The next morning I woke up and forgot about the M BRACE RCA until my throbbing tendonitis quickly reminded me of it. I put the wristband back on and spent the entire workday nearly pain free. If I had to quantify the situation, the pain went from being a “9” (the cusp of unbearable / “I can’t take this anymore!!!” territory) to a “2.5” in LESS than 24 hours.
It was crazy. It was totally unexpected. I felt like doing the happy dance of joy it was such a major RELIEF.
The Amazon Marketplace dealer who sold me the M BRACE RCA sent an email offering to mail me, at no additional charge, padding for the M BRACE RCA should I find that it was irritating (it doesn’t) and directing me to his quite extensive explanation of how he came to find out about the M BRACE RCA himself and how it works to the actual patent application filed by the inventor, Dr. Mark A. Davini, DC, a Boston-based chiropractor.
It’s been three weeks, maybe a little longer now since I got my M BRACE RCA. The tendonitis pain has gone from a “9” to a “2.5” and today, as I type this, I’d say it’s about a “1” on the pain scale. Maybe less. The M BRACE RCA basically does one thing: it prevents your wrist from being flexible enough to cause a repetitive strain injury (RSI) or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. You’re forced to work slightly differently (without curtailing movement much) but this makes all the difference. It also creates the space to allow the wrist’s median nerve to heal, which for me continued rapidly for over a week until I was virtually pain free.
I don’t want to make this post overlong because I want the message to be simple: Try this thing, like I did. It costs practically nothing and if it doesn’t work for you, who cares, you’re not out very much. It worked GREAT for me and for most of the reviewers on Amazon.
Additionally, I wanted to stress how getting rid of the mouse, or more specifically switching to the Contour RollerMouse Red (which requires no constant gripping, you could probably operate it wearing oven mitts) really helped in my case. Without the M BRACE RCA I wouldn’t be saying that, but I have noticed that when I use my Anker vertical mouse for too long—or not even that long at all—it starts to hurt again. For me, the ideal combination is the M BRACE RCA, the Contour RollerMouse Red and a standing desk, but without a doubt, the M BRACE RCA was the primary and most important factor in my own (speedy!) recovery from severe tendonitis.
If you take my advice about the M BRACE RCA and find that it works for you, too, consider leaving advice for others in the comments and spreading the word about this simple, cheap and nearly instantaneously cure for RSI, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and even severe tendonitis brought on by spending too much time on a computer.