Carpal Tunnel??

  • I'm relatively young (I'm 17), and I draw for 4 -6 hours a day, almost everyday a week. At the moment, I don't have any problems with my back hurting (though I tend to lean over my work, sometimes to the point of smudging it with my nose!), but my wrists have been sore (just a little), and I want to know if there are some better precautions I should take to prevent this (or any shoulder, back, head pain). I reeeally don't want to develop carpal tunnel or have to stop drawing. (I want to make this my career.)

    Do you guys know of any excersizes or other support that I could get or do? I'm open to suggestions. I'm not sure if I should get wrist braces or anything, and I'm a bit confused about what to do. 🙂

    Here's a few extra things you might need to know:

    • I work on a desk completely perpendicular to the floor

    • My chair doesn't have wheels or much back support. (I want to get a new one, but they're all so expensive or have wheels on them [my floor is carpet :p] )

    • I had scoliosis surgery way back in 2013, so my back has built in back support (though I do slouch often)

    • I work out every week day, and do small weights ( 2 pounds each, because I'm weak 😵 ) for two - three of those workouts. I also do some crunches to strengthen my stomach and back muscles. 🙂

    • I'm taking Jake Parker's inking class, and trying to work with my shoulder and elbow more.

    • I go to an online school, so I end up using my laptop and typing often.

    I really hope I can find some answers, I don't have the money to get physical therapy or ask a doctor.

    🙂 Thank you, I really appreciate any help!

  • SVS OG

    I had some problems with carpal tunnel a few years ago due to my habit of squeezing my tablet pen too much--I don't squeeze normal pens or pencils, but for some reason I was squeezing my tablet pen. I think maybe because I wasn't used to the tablet/screen disconnect and I didn't feel like I had as much control. Its just a habit, and if you catch yourself doing it try to break it! I switched from using Photoshop and a tablet to using a mouse with Illustrator at that time, partially due to the carpal tunnel (but also because Illustrator is awesome :-).

    I later got carpal tunnel in my other hand due to bad wrist support using the mouse. A wrist brace and chiropractic adjustments fixed the problems.

    This is all in addition to the obvious--take breaks, shake out your hands and wrists and do stretches periodically! Exercises are easy to find online, I printed out a page with a few and put it on my wall to remind me.

  • Oh, I'm so sorry! I deal with occasional tendonitis in my elbows and wrists and I know how frustrating it can be! Sarah's advice is great. Something that has also helped me is using an ultrasound. It is a little pricey (something like $350), but after thinking I could never draw again, it helped me over the edge. Knowing when I need to stop for the day and exercises have also been very effective, but when I can tell that I've pushed myself too far, ultrasounding gets me back on track. If you want more information about where I got mine, let me know. )Heating pads and ice are also very helpful.) Otherwise, good luck!

  • Pro SVS OG

    I have no experience about this and maybe what I say does not make any sense. I do draw or paint about 4 hours a day every day - after I have been working at a computer for the previous 9 I am holding a mouse or pencil or stylus for about 13 hours a day. I am waaaay older than you (more than double ;-)) and I have never had problems with my hand or wrist. But I do have serious (unresolved) scoliosis, for which I had multiple treatments when I was young. I think you have to follow Jake's prompt and learn to stabilize your wrist and draw with your whole arm and shoulder. It will also make your drawings better. When I was at art school they made us draw for almost two years at an easel, standing, and in large formats. That loosens up and gets you in the habit of drawing with your whole body and a straight back. Now I have a large tablet that I keep at a 45 degree angle and I still draw with the whole arm - my wrist barely moves. I believe that has contributed in keeping the hands and back pain-free.

  • There are lots of things we can do to help alleviate those aches and pains from prolonged desk work. You may consider some stretches, taking breaks, and as stated before adjusting your grip. I am a licensed massage therapist and had to really pay attention when I was working full time and take breaks as needed. You can also massage your forearms when they begin to feel tight.

    0_1463083742368_hand stretches.jpg

  • I used to do 3D modelling and played a lot of PC video games and found the repeated use of the mouse to make small movements ended up hurting my wrist. The doctor said it was a repetitive strain injury, which is easier to heal from than carpal tunnel, but still had me wearing a splint for a while.

    I've had coworkers who also had RSIs and the computer mouse seems to be the biggest culprit along with bad ergonomics where you're working.

  • Wow! Thank you all for such great help! 😃
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who was wondering or needs these excersizes!

    @Sarah-LuAnn I think that may be the culprit. I used to death grip my pencil in elementary school, and I'm much better. But, I know I need to grip it even lighter. Thank you! I actually have a mouse pad with wrist support, so I should be good to go with using photoshop. 😃

    @Timbdsf Ouch! Tendonitis doesn't sound great either. I don't have any problems with my back at the moment, but I'll definitely keep ultrasounding in mind if I have future issues!

    @smceccarelli Haha! I'm glad to know people who draw as much as me! Scoliosis is no fun, and it kept me from drawing for almost a year. It was such a frustrating setback. I'm glad you're able to power through it (without surgery) and still do art for so long! I definitely will be working on strengthening my shoulder now. It seems I have trouble drawing on any surface larger than printer paper. (Like a whiteboard.) I'm going to an art camp this summer, so I'll make sure to practice drawing with my whole body. Thank you SO much for your feedback!

    @Suzy-Heitz Thank you so much for the exercises, I'm going to print them out and put them on my wall where I draw. (As suggested by @Sarah-LuAnn )They're also extremely funny. XD Thank you!!

    @Stuart-Robertson Thank you for reminding me! I had an ergonomic mouse pad and totally forgot! 🙂 I'll be using that for now on.

    Thank you all SO SO SO much! I really appreciate your help and suggestions, I hope this thread might assist others too. Since there wasn't many posts on the subject on svs. :))

  • SVS OG

    Don't forget to take breaks!! set a timer, get up every 15 min and do the stretches, walk around, just let your body relax for about a min and go back to it 🙂

  • @Lynn-Larson Definitely a good idea, I'll do that too! Thanks! 😃