I’ve been struggling with my right hand a bit lately (in early 2011 I suffered severely with tendonitis, and my hand just hasn’t really been the same). Luckily I have finally booked an appointment with a massage therapist and I’m hoping she can help me! But until then, my productivity has slowed down, and my stress levels have gone up… so it sure was a great distraction to have the postbox filled with massive amounts of snail mail yesterday. It was a really nice pick-me up. Details of my parcels & envelopes to come in my weekend mail art post, but for now you can admire the pile that made me forget about my aches.
This post is a little different than most of my regular posts, but I feel the need to distribute a bit of pertinent information to ALL of my artist friends out there; those of you who rely on your hands to create, work and live really ought to read on… Back in January while working a crappy part-time job, I developed tendinitis in my dominant hand due to constant, repetitive gripping motions. My hand had to be immobilized (ie: NOT USE IT AT ALL) and I of course had to quit my job (because I couldn’t perform it, but also because it would only become an endless source of injury). It took 2 full months of recovery until I was capable of fully closing my right hand to grip or hold things. Apart from the absolute inconvenience of trying to live an every day life with just one arm (try putting your hair up…), I was also unable to do any of my consistent creative outlets. It took a toll on me both physically and emotionally.My hand has since healed, but it isn’t quite 100%. There are days when I wake up with it aching, perhaps due to the weather, or an awkward sleeping position, etc… Other times it begins to hurt if I have used my hand too much in one day, or if I am doing repetitive gripping tasks like dishes or gardening. These pains would be annoying to anyone, but as an artist who relies on her limbs to produce, it is a constant battle I do not want to fight everyday. I have started a few techniques that have helped my recovery progress and I thought would be helpful to share them with you.Artists and people who use their hands constantly need to be aware of the problems that can arrise out of constant, heavy use, and thus should be proactive about preventing these issues from crippling their creations, careers and dreams. Carpal tunnel, DeQuervians syndrome, arthritis and tendinitis are the four big health issues that can be detrimental to an artistic career that relies on healthy tendon, joint and muscle function. However these afflictions can be easily avoided if you remain proactive about prevention. Number one, and this can be said for overall body health, but DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. Your hands and arms are filled with precious tendons and multiple muscles that can become tight and irritable if they are not properly hydrated. Think of metal gears cranking without any lube, same idea; water helps to diminish tendon, joint & muscle friction. Remember in school when they taught us that our bodies are 70-80% water? They NEED this special clear fluid to work properly!Of course like water, a healthy diet will aid in your overall body function, but when it comes specifically to tendinitis, acid-producing foods should be avoided (high-fat meats & white bread/rice). Fruits and vegetables are obviously the most encouraged as they are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and for the most part non-acid producing. Pineapples, kiwis, strawberries, bananas and apples all contain a natural anti-inflammatory called bromelain which can help heal aggravated and inflamed tendons and muscles. The vitamins present in fresh produce help boost your immune system which fights infection and repairs the body. Also some people swear by supplements like glucosamine or zinc which are intended to help reduce tendon and joint pain if you take them consistently. Apart from eating and drinking healthy, stretching is one of the biggest things people overlook. I am positive that many artists start their day by just sitting down at their desk, picking up their pencil or turning on their computer and getting straight to work. The issue here is that your body isn’t prepared for the demanding (and usually repetitive) tasks you are going to put it through. Think of a gymnast or a long distance runner… would they ever begin a routine or run a race without warming up/stretching first in order to ensure their bodies are ready? As artists we tend to disregard the rigors of creativity. We need to realize that a lot of these motions and actions that we put our hands and body through daily can be extremely strenuous on our joints, tendons and muscles and can ultimately lead to injury or aches. Here are two great links to some stretching exercises that have been particularly helpful to me. The first is a general list of hand/wrist warm-ups, stretches and strengthening exercises that should be performed at least once a day. If you consistently stretch your hands, wrists and arms, you will be far less likely to develop the 4 above listed hand afflictions. The second is a stretching video that my friend Anika Starmer passed along to me which includes a few exercises that are invaluable when it comes to recovering from carpal tunnel or tendonitis. In particular this video illustrates a stretch that was extremely helpful to the palm and the thumb area; it is a stretch I hadn’t seen in any of my other searches for therapy. I hope this post has been informative and that you all start to be proactive about preventing some of these possible career crippling afflictions. So please take better care of your paws… ’cause trust me, life’s pretty tough without ’em.
***NOTE: I am not a doctor, physical trainer or nutritionist! This is simply my OWN advice, from my OWN experience & should be heeded as general information for prevention & overall health. It is not meant to be interpreted as a professional medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing constant pain in your arms, wrists or hands PLEASE visit your family physician for a proper individual medical consultation.