As was pointed out to me in a movie I recently watched, the society we live in seem’s to encorage us to treat the symptoms of an ailment instead of investigating the cause. With that in mind, as tattooists the million dollar question we should all be asking is: what is carpel tunnel syndrome and how is it caused…?
“Carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel.”
Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. This pressure can come from swelling or anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller. OK, thats seems simple enough, but why does it seem to be a particular problem for Tattooists?
“One of the main causes of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is making the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down (your hands lower than your wrists), or making the same wrist movements over and over”
So basically tattooists are screwed right?
It goes with the territory.
A rotary machine may lengthen your career slightly (if it doesn’t screw your shoulder up first – more to come in other posts on this subject). But no matter whether you use coils or rotaries, whether or not or you prefer a heavy machine or next to no weight at all.
As tattooists we are going to be doing those little hand movements day after day, week after week and year after year.
If you are just starting out on your career then this section of my website will be of great interest to you. You will be required to exert a small amount of effort, work and discipline. I feel sure you will benefit from my recipe for avoiding Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
If you’re already suffering, then let start by giving you some hope.
In 2010 I had been tattooing for roughly six years, I was in agony daily and using very strong painkillers in order to cope with the pain in my hands ( which of course didn’t work, nothing does in pill form). I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly tired and irritable. Life was not sunshine and roses.
I was worried and it was all down to my hand. I even considered surgery but after an honest chat with someone who knows about these things I considered the risk to be greater than the potential reward.
Over a period of seven years I have cured my Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, yes I know, I said cured.
Welcome to the seven year plan!
That was a joke. I do not know how long it will take you, but regardless I will give you my shortcuts and tips all of which are useful and do help. Some of them do so instantly and some of them work over time.
This one everyone can do, it requires little effort other than opening the freezer door. And it helps…….. instantly.
You will need two or three pots of Play Doh – yep you heard me right – and you keep them in the freezer…. again you heard me right. Every night after a days tattooing, take out the frozen Play Doh from the freezer. Once out of the pot it will be like a mouldable ice pack, wrap the contents of one or two pots around your tattooing wrist.
Use the contents of the third pot in your tattooing hand, squeeze it like a stress ball or mould it around your fingers.
The cold from the Play Doh will cool your tendons and reduce the swelling and inflammation around them. Follow this routine daily and it will help reduce the swelling of the tendons trapping the median nerve, thus reducing the symptoms.
Give it a go and I hope it helps.
Keep on following this part of the blog for more tips and exercises to ease your pain. But if you get those tendons iced up for a week then you should be about ready for another tip next week, around the same time.