Wrist pain taught me to stand up straight

The veins in my right arm in this picture show you what good circulation looks like for me.

I was a student at UCLA.  I worked in an on-campus computer lab.  One winter, I injured my right shoulder in mid-air while snowboarding.  I struggled to figure out how to help my shoulder heal, but nothing was helping.  Physical therapy wasn’t helping. Sitting on my butt, chatting online, and updating my friendster profile while eating ibuprofen wasn’t helping.

And then the pain in my wrists set in.  At first it wasn’t bad, but it got progressively worse.  My elbows started to get tender.  I could feel tendons snapping and popping every time I straightened my arm coupled with a squelching sensation.  My forearms felt sore — glowing with inflammation.  My fingers began to curl up.  My palms discolored to a sickly purple.  The veins that had once bulged on my forearms — a sign of fantastic circulation — disappeared and were replaced with a cold numbness from just above my elbow all the way down to my finger tips.

So began the struggle.  I started taking supplements.  Vitamins B6 and B12 helped for while.  I don’t know how they helped, but they took the pain down as if by magic.  And then, as suddenly as I’d found that they helped, they stopped helping.

So I tried acupuncture. I tried electro-acupuncture. I tried chiropractic. I tried Chinese medical massage, I tried herbal remedies.  I tried acupressure.  I tried shiatsu.  I tried eating a Chinese beef tendon dish (that my mother can cook quite well, thank you). I tried eating more meat.  I tried eating less meat.

I sought help from my doctor who told me my problem was overuse and repetitive motion.

So I cut back on the computer.  I cut back on any attempts to do exercise. I upped the ibuprofen dosage.

And nothing got better unless I kept myself off the computer as much as possible.  Five minutes was all it took to set my hands off into their cold, numb state.  My doctor assured me that it wasn’t carpal tunnel syndrome (the wrong fingers were going numb, after all!), so that all I had to do was wear a brace and rest until the inflammation magically disappeared.

As long as I didn’t need to do anything, this strategy worked quite well.  No computer, no pain. No exercise, no problem.  Until my knee started pinching, my feet started aching and going numb, my hips started popping, my neck started hurting, and my back got stiff…

Which is all to say that resting wasn’t the solution.  Fixing the posture was.  As far as the wrists and forearms were concerned, the problems started clearing up as my shoulders found the right position to be in and learned to maintain that position (with the help of my hips, legs, and back).  As many of my clients will tell you (and my friends and family as well), I now spend a good deal of time typing away on this machine called a computer.

And you know what? As long as I do the work away from the computer to maintain good posture, my forearm veins stay full of blood, and I survive and thrive in the 21st century!


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.