Decades of working on the computer, video games, and riding a motorcycle have left my hands in pretty bad shape. I still like doing all of those things, however, so over the years I've found a few things that really help.
I started feeling pain in my hands over 20 years ago. I was spending 12-18 hours a day at my first start-up, and any leisure we had was spent playing video games with guys in the office. It started with shooting pains in the tops of my hands. I switched from a mouse to a trackball and tried ergonomic keyboards. For a few years this worked.
By my late 30s I started waking up with my hands curled into little balls under me, completely numb. Typing for long periods of time would cause shooting pains. I started to get worried I was going to lose the use of my hands, I'd already lost some range of motion. When I stretched my fingers as far as I can, I would have 1/2 to 1/3 the range of motion I saw in friends and family.
The scariest symptom of my carpal tunnel is not when I wake up in the morning with my hands curled over into claws, numb. It is not the shooting pains in the top of my hands while typing or using a tool. The worst is when I can not open a hand to move it to the clutch on my motorcycle. That has only happened on long rides, but once or twice was enough to ensure I stay aware and not let it happen. I had to try something, but horror stories kept me away from surgery.
The first thing I tried was sleeping with wrist braces on. The National Institute of Health relays that wearing splints, all-the-time or just at night, can really help. I found that a number of the worst symptoms back off or disappear completely after a few weeks of regular use. I also found that sleeping in the braces was super uncomfortable. I spent a lot of time trying different braces, with varied strap systems and multiple metal splits. I find this style, with three straps and a single splint, to be the easiest for me to wear and sleep in. They limit the range of wrist motion to stop my hands from moving into a numbing pose during sleep. Sometimes I will wear them until they wake me up in the middle of the night, and take them off if they become uncomfortable. After a while they have become pretty comfortable and I enjoy putting them on.
The wrist braces are for when things are severe. I do not wear them every night. If no numbness, pain, or loss of control presents during the day, I may forget to put them on. I know when I need them.
Make no mistake: The wrist braces REALLY help.
Something that has surprisingly made a difference is drinking Aloe Vera Juice. There are all sorts of stories about Aloe helping everything from wrinkles to ulcers. My father, an MD, used to drink it as a natural source of anti-inflammatories for a herniated disc, so I tried it when I herniated a disc. My back felt no better but my hands were suddenly awesome! The only problem? Aloe Vera tastes a lot like I imagine Liquid Plumbr must. I still have a very hard time drinking it regularly. When I notice my hands getting bad, however, I will immediately start drinking a couple ounces a day.
Aloe Vera juice comes in various styles. I go for the Inner Filet as it seems to taste a bit less caustic than the whole leaf. Regardless, it tastes horrendous. Mixing the Aloe Vera with juice can help, but the flavor is so strong it makes orange juice taste like gasoline. I have found that banana juice covers the flavor really well. Just drink it!
It wouldn't be Boing Boing if I didn't tell you that CBD oil also helps a lot. I take it orally, you can also find topical salves. A couple drops a day really helps. My back also feels moderately better.
When it comes to using the computer, I am at a laptop with a track pad most of the time, and my 2013 model Apple Mac Book Pro doesn't seem to hurt me much. I've had good luck with Apple laptops in the past, but understand the new keyboard is a monster. If I could find an index finger trackball that I like, I'd switch back to using one, but the last one I really liked used a PS/2 cable. I haven't seen a good one in ages.
For video games I play with a controller now, and I make sure to find the best controller, grips, and joystick extenders to make a controller fit my hand. Xbox One is just fine, the Nintendo Switch "joycons" destroy my hands.
On the motorcycle I run heated grips. I also stop every 45-60 minutes and flex my hands a lot, maybe get a hot cup of coffee, just to hold. Sometimes I don't even drink it.
Taking some anti-inflammatory NSAIDs before a long ride also helps a lot.
Carpal tunnel may suck, but I'm getting some wins at Fortnite.
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Looza Banana Juice via Amazon