On sharing wrist advice

Hi, you may have seen some of my pained ramblings about my chronic pain and have decided to offer some advice. Maybe I was venting on social media, or perhaps I wrote something on a forum a few days/months/years ago that you want to help with. While I do appreciate the sentiment, there are a few things you should consider before messaging me with your solutions to my problems!

First of all, I have been dealing with these problems since 1996. My wrist problems are old enough to drink. Statistically-speaking, I have probably been working on this since before you were programming, or using computers, or maybe even before you were born.

Second, I have written extensively about wrist problems and the treatments thereof. For example, I’ve written about my ergonomic setup, my self-care regimen, and about many of the problems with trying to get help. And that’s just what’s on my new site – I had quite a bit more on my old blog before I tore it down in a fit of pique a few months ago.

Perhaps you want to let me know about that Python programmer who used voice dictation, or that game programmer who used voice dictation and eye tracking, or that accessibility software that lets people type without their fingers. I am aware of them! They also aren’t solutions which help me with my problems; among what I do, writing code is actually not a very large component of it, and my approach to making things requires much more iteration and (so to speak) hands-on processes which aren’t easy to capture in voice dictation. Also, until there’s software that allows me to draw, or control a piano, guitar, or multitrack DAW software with my voice – and is also smart enough to rule out background noises and conversations with my cats – voice software at its best can only scratch the surface of the assistance I need. (Gaze tracking isn’t an answer either.)

And yes, I am also aware of software that can convert humming into notation! Logic actually comes with some built in. That stuff I actually do use somewhat, but its utility is still limited and, again, only scratches the surface of what’s necessary for music production. It won’t twiddle the knobs or set up my LFOs or even do basic effect routing for me. And I still have to clean all the notes up afterward anyway.

I also spend a significant amount of time helping other people with their code and performing code reviews and sharing best practices; when I am trying to help someone else who doesn’t know how to program very well, I can’t simply talk to them at a high level about how they should be doing it, since if they were on that level I probably wouldn’t be assisting them in the first place.

Perhaps you just want to share your story about what worked for you/your spouse/some random person you met on the bus. I’m very glad that it worked for you/your spouse/some random person you met on the bus! But it’s probably stuff I’ve heard before or tried already. And explaining that repeatedly doesn’t exactly help with my wrists either.

Also, I know this reponse may seem a bit grumpy; after all, you were only trying to help. It is difficult for me to remain civil, cheerful, and patient when I am constantly at a 7 or 8 on the Mankoski pain scale, which is when I am most likely to be venting about these problems in the first place.

So, again, thank you for wanting to share your advice, but please be aware of the greater context first.

Wrist wrest

My current wrist care regimen, which is… well, slowly helping me to not be in quite so much pain (more slowly than I’d like):

  • Using Time Out with the following breaks set up (in decreasing priority order):
    • Get to bed: break for 4 minutes every 19 minutes, between 1 AM and 6 AM
    • Normal: break for 3 minutes every 20 minutes, all day long; only allow 3 1-minute postponements per day, and show the postpone count
    • Micro: break for 10 seconds every 4 minutes
    • Exercise: 5 minutes every hour, all day long; only allow 3 5-minute postponements per day, and show the postpone count. Randomly selects one of a few different wrist- and core-strength exercises for me to do.
  • During a normal or get to bed break, do one of the following:
    • Clean something
    • Do some dishes
    • Spin a powerball
    • Stretches
    • Squish some putty
  • Don’t worry about not getting stuff done
  • Type exclusively using a keyboard.io while (sometimes) wearing padded wrist braces
  • Every time I walk through my office door, do some chin-ups
  • Actually drink plenty of water and do stretches
  • Remember that it isn’t a race

(For Windows and Linux users, the closest equivalent to Time Out is Workrave although it has plenty of problems.)

On chronic pain

Note: While reading this you may be tempted to give me advice on things to help with chronic pain or wrist problems. Believe me when I say I have almost certainly heard it before, and I am not interested in advice; I simply want to help spread understanding.

I have, since my late teenage years, had chronic pain in both wrists, a result of heavy computer use that started when I was very young. I was fascinated by computers and absolutely determined to become an expert at everything that could be done on them; this drive led me to many spans of overworking as I tried to do everything I could in as short a time as I could. This obsessiveness combined with poor ergonomic practices led to a slow buildup of nerve adhesions and chronic tendinitis.

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