Wrist Pain From Typing? You're Probably Not Doing THIS - Make a Living Writing

Wrist Pain From Typing? You’re Probably Not Doing THIS

Evan Jensen | 42 Comments
The Fix for Wrist Pain From Typing

Do you get wrist pain from typing?

You know…first there’s a little cramping in your wrists and fingers. Maybe a burning sensation, tingling, numbness, or weakness.

And you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for this.”

Because you’ve got deadlines, assignments, more freelance marketing work to do. And then there’s the crush of email.

So you ignore that wrist pain from typing…and power through it, because you’re bound and determined to make a living writing.

Only that wrist pain from typing doesn’t really go away. Some days it radiates all the way up your arm.

If you take a day off from pounding the keyboard, you might get some relief.

But when you’re back at it, chasing deadlines, drumming up freelance work, and trying to stay on top of all those emails, it usually comes back.

Been there, done that?

I’ve been paid to write as a staffer and freelancer for 20 years. That’s a lot of keyboard time. And I’ve had my share of wrist pain from typing.

But when I started doing this ONE thing, it went away…pretty much for good.

If you have wrist pain from typing, you’re probably not doing this…

My ‘wrist pain from typing’ turning point

I was on a 2 a.m. deadline as a reporter to file a city council story for The Liberty Lake Splash newspaper near Spokane, Wash.

At the time, I had a lot of wrist pain from typing, writing extra stories, putting out a special edition, and freelancing for The Spokesman Review.

It’d been that way for a long time. And I wondered if the wrist pain from typing was…

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a condition caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs through the arm and passes through a narrow tunnel in the wrist.
  • When this happens, it can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, and a burning sensation in your hand, wrist, fingers, and arm.

And I dreaded the thought:

“What if I need surgery…in both wrists? I’ll be off work for weeks.”

I walked out of that late-night meeting, popped some ibuprofen, took a swig of Mountain Dew, and filed that story a couple hours later…wrists on fire.

The Band-Aid fix to pain-free writing

If you’ve ever had wrist pain from typing, (that’s probably most freelance writers) you’ve probably looked for ways to find relief. I had to do something, and I think I tried everything short of surgery. This included:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Braces to stabilize the wrist
  • Gel pads for my keyboard
  • A wrist-friendly mouse
  • One of those ergonomic keyboards with a wavy design

Nothing really seemed to work

Although, I didn’t try acupuncture, which has been proven to help treat carpal tunnel symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences.

The only time I really felt relief was when I spent a day or two away from typing.

Sound familiar? This isn’t a good option if you plan to make a living writing. Cause let’s face it, as a freelance writer, you’re going to be typing,..a lot.

The accidental cure to wrist pain from typing

I thought surgery might be inevitable to fix my wrist pain from typing. And then something happened by accident that changed everything:

  • I signed up for a strength training class at the Spokane Valley YMCA.
  • A personal trainer took my measurements, gave me some tips on running long-distance races, and asked me a bunch of questions about what I do for work (typing and sitting). Wrist pain from typing came up, and he gave me some homework.
  • For the next four weeks, I lifted weights three days a week. I got a little stronger and leaner.

But the best part…my wrist pain from typing was GONE.

The freelance writer’s fix for wrist pain

If you have wrist pain from typing, you don’t have to give up freelancing. And you don’t have to become a gym rat.

But there are some things you can do to alleviate the pain, and avoid surgery so you can make a living writing.

1. Save your money

The Band-Aid fixes for wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, provide some temporary relief. But they’re not a long-term solution.

2. Adjust your workstation

As a freelancer, you’ve got the luxury of working anywhere…like from your bed if you want.

But when you’re at your computer, your wrists should be in a neutral position, not bent or angled in a funky way.

3. Take short breaks from typing

Make it a habit during your work day. This doesn’t have to be long. Just a minute or two throughout your workday.

Stop typing, and stretch your hands, fingers and wrists like this:

  • Rotate your wrists up and down, and side to side. Apply pressure with one hand to stretch your wrist.
  • Stretch your fingers far apart. Hold for 3-5 seconds, and repeat.
  • Shake out your hands and wrists like you’re trying to air dry after washing.

Note: Honestly, I don’t do any of the exercise above anymore, because strength training is the thing that fixed my wrist pain from typing.

4. Strength train at least two days a week

You should do this at least two days a week, anyways. It’s what the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends for all adults.

  • Lift weights.
  • Do bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, planks, and crunches.
  • Dust off your weight set, dumbbells, or exercise machine and use it.

5. If you don’t get relief from wrist pain from typing…

See a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. You may need surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, or something else may be causing your wrist pain.

Keep typing to make a living writing

If you want to make a living writing, you and your keyboard need to get along…pain free, so you can land new clients, crush every deadline and make money.

Do you have wrist pain from typing? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Evan Jensen is a freelance copywriter and blog editor for Make a Living Writing. He’s also a personal trainer and ultramarathon runner.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

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42 comments on “Wrist Pain From Typing? You’re Probably Not Doing THIS

  1. Max Russell on

    Hey Evan, thanks for sharing this information. We seem to be spending even more time on our laptops amid the pandemic. Wrist pain is very common, and a lot of people tend to ignore it till it becomes chronic.

    Reply
  2. Linda A Hamilton on

    I have carpel tunnel in both wrists but not because I’ve been typing for over 50 years. When it was discovered, the doctor said I had the worst case he’d ever seen and I needed immediate surgery in both hands or I’d lose their use. So I had the surgery within a few weeks getting both wrists done within a week of each other. The doctor told me to keep working while healing, and it was one of my busiest writing times, so I did.

    Now, I use therabands instead of weights. Cheap at your local drug store or buy from Amazon. I use them for resistance training since I can’t use my home gym set up. Also have 6 lb dumbells to use, or fill a bottle with water and use it for very low impact weight training.

    I’ve always worked out. Have a home gym that I can’t use right now due to small living conditions. But I walk as much as possible and use the therabands in a schedule exercise routine. Overall health is important as a freelancer because we’re sedentary in our jobs. Wrist health also contributes to heart and mind health.

    Great article Carol. Thanks for sharing.

    Great advice, Carol. You may not know how bad your wrists are until it’s almost too late. I had no clue my wrists were bad, they didn’t hurt all that much. I worked out a lot

    Reply
  3. Sasha Kildare on

    I had no idea strength training could help with wrist pain. I am committed to resistance/strength training 2X a week because it provides some different benefits to the brain than cardio does. It also boosts your metabolism by increasing muscle mass and is good for your bones.

    I was wondering why my wrists don’t bother me hardly at all, and now I know!

    Reply
  4. Chanoa on

    Thai massage, self-massage with a lacrosse ball, sleeping on my back instead of on my sides, and wearing elbow braces while typing were the main drivers of healing my tendonitis after a very, very long time of trying all kinds of things.

    Whatever the wrist issue, prevention is the best method. I had an injury that caused it in one elbow and the exhaustion and misuse of the other while avoiding using that one created the issue in both arms.

    I think bad ergonomics is usually the cause for most people, and it’s worth every cent to transform your home office.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Glad you found this helpful. Consistently doing the exercises or strength training is really the key to preventing wrist pain tied to typing/computer use.

      Reply
  5. Joy West on

    Great article Evan!
    I have carpal tunnel in both wrists but I’m not going to let it keep me from getting on my laptop but what strength training should I do to relieve the pain and keep the wrists from getting weak?

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Joy. It’s smart not to ignore this. Cause it usually gets worse without taking a break from writing/typing or exercises to strengthen your arm/wrist.

      Simple exercises you can do…
      -Rotate your wrists up and down, and side to side. Apply pressure with one hand to stretch your wrist.
      -Stretch your fingers far apart. Hold for 3-5 seconds, and repeat.
      -Shake out your hands and wrists like you’re trying to air dry after washing.

      Strength training
      Any exercises that require grip strength, and engage your wrist and forearm, are going to make a difference. For example:
      -Lift weights
      -Do bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, planks, and crunches.
      -Dust off your weight set, dumbbells, or exercise machine and use it.

      -Also see Carol’s dumbbell wrist curls below in the comments.

      Reply
  6. Empish on

    Excellent article and oh so true! I started having wrist pain a few months back and like you started making changes. I got a mechanical keyboard with the springy keys. I also wear a wrist guard. While this is happening I was seeing a physical therapist for my right knee and she made some small recommendations. Rest was one of them so I would just let my emails scroll when I would read them with my screen reader verses using the keyboard. I also would take breaks and place my hands in my lap taking them off the keyboard and desk altogether. But the exercise you talk about makes a lot of sense and I need to get back on my routine in that area. the PT was doing all this strengthening exercises for my legs but I need to do them for my arms and hands. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and solution to this chronic problem.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Empish. Glad you recognize this. Just a little bit of strength training and stretching daily can make a big difference. And the sooner you create that habit, the less likely you’re have problems down the road.

      Funny thing is…building your freelance career is a lot like that. Consistency in marketing is one of the biggest difference from barely making any money, to earning well. Keep going.

      Reply
  7. Fred Becker on

    Don’t forget about voice recognition. I used to use this quit often and this would cut down time by over 50% +. When finished talking you only had to change a few mistakes you wanted corrected, copy it and paste it to where you want it go, and presto it is done.
    Google has a free voice recognition and there are many other Speech to Text softwares you can also purchase. It amazes me you have used these before to save your wrists and tons of time saved.

    Reply
    • empish on

      Fred, thanks for bringing that up. I use a screen reader that is text to speech and when reading emails I just let it read and take my hands off the keyboard. Also, when reviewing a piece for submission. A screen reader is not just helpful for the wrist pain but it is good to hear your written work spoken out loud. You can pick up errors and the flow of sentence structure.

      Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Fred, that’s a great idea. Jon Morrow built his entire freelance career and Smart Blogger empire using voice recognition software.

      Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Gina. Trigger finger or trigger thumb can totally interfere with typing.

      Like carpal tunnel and wrist pain, there’s a lot of Band-Aid fixes for it. Rest can help, but sometimes it’s not enough to fix the problem.

      Before surgery, The American Society for Surgery of the Hand recommends treating trigger finger with:

      -Night splints
      -Anti-inflammatory medication
      -Changing your activity
      -Steroid injection

      Same as carpal tunnel, if non-invasive treatment doesn’t work, surgery may be necessary.

      Reply
  8. Erica on

    After the doctor who was treating an unrelated injury suggested I may have carpal tunnel syndrome, I remembered some stretches I learned in P90x (there’s a whole segment devoted to stretching). Within two days of doing the stretches, the tingling in my right arm, went away– no braces, no meds– and as long as I do them regularly, I’m fine. A doctor in my family physician’s practice had been prescribing medication, without any investigation.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Erica,
      P90X is intense. LOL. Lots of jumping, high-impact movements. Virtual fist bump for doing it. Pretty cool the stretching routine helped. Keep it up.

      Reply
        • Evan Jensen on

          LOL. P90X is an at-home 90-day bodyweight workout program by Tony Horton, and part of the Beach Body empire.

          It was massively popular about 10 years ago, but still has a huge following. And probably a revival thanks to COVID-19.

          But there’s a lot of high-impact, high-intensity exercises in this program. It’s super effective to burn calories and fat, but there’s also risk of injury from all the jumping involved: burpees, jump squats, etc. FYI – pull-ups and chin ups are part of P90X, too.

          Reply
  9. Jared on

    Evan, this post could not have been more timely. After beginning full-time working from home in March and developing my freelance business, pain in my right wrist came surging in quickly.
    I invested in some tools to stretch, and a full strength training routine with dumbbells from home. Pain subsided for many months, but came crawling back last week. Most my pain is in the inside of my right palm.
    My workout routine has fallen by the wayside as our indoor gyms closed again, but I’m inspired to pick up the weights this week and see if it does the trick.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Jared,

      Good job juggling FT work at home + freelancing.

      Totally pick up the weights again. Try 3 days a week, for two weeks, and I bet you notice a difference.

      Reply
  10. kent Patrick forsberg on

    I have tried to do pushups regularly for years. I know it has helped me in different ways. Thank you for the tips

    Reply
      • Carol Tice on

        Agree! IDEA Evan: Maybe you could create a WRITER WORKOUT CHALLENGE for this winter and do us some videos or live workout events? I personally have decided I want to LOSE WEIGHT and get in BETTER SHAPE during Covid winter — only way to keep from just mentally falling apart and becoming a fat blob of Covid baking is to FIGHT it.

        Reply
  11. Hariana Chilstrom on

    Yup. That’s me. Carpal tunnel, too.

    I have lifted weights at my old gym, now out of reach, but would like to start at home now.

    Can you share the specific exercises you did with your weights that helped your wrists? Were they dumbbells?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      I personally have been doing 5 lb dumbell wrist curls for years now, hands resting on knees, 10 curling up, 10 curling underneath, 4 sets of reps for 40 in all… and simply DON’T have a problem anymore! I used to not just have wrist pain but it would shoot all the way up to my armpits and I needed scalding nightly baths to relax it enough to sleep.

      Reply
      • Evan Jensen on

        Perfect routine and only takes a couple of minutes. And it’s a lot cheaper than doctor’s visits, Band-Aid fixes, and surgery. Keep it up.

        Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Hariana,
      What Carol said. Her 5lb dumbbell exercises are perfect to combat carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain.

      But really any strength training exercises that engage your arm and wrist will work.

      I don’t do exercises to specifically target my wrist. Just use a mix of bodyweight exercises, barbells, dumbbells, and machines to workout…that is until gyms closed in Oregon last week.

      Reply
      • Carol Tice on

        I’m all about the free weights at my house. I have 10 lb barbells that I do squats and lifts over my head, bench presses, and a few other lifts. Getting read to increase that weight to keep building.

        I also do the behind-the-head press with the 5 lbs to work on underarm and more wrist building, and just pressing the weight out to the side. Don’t want to end up an old lady who can’t lift my own purse! We need to keep building muscle, and building muscles in our arms and wrist BESIDES the typing ones. It seems like strengthen other muscles in the area really helps relieve the carpal.

        Reply
        • Evan Jensen on

          Yesss! Keep it up. Most people, including freelance writers, don’t get enough exercise.

          From a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report released earlier this year…

          More than 80% of adults do not meet the minimum guidelines for both aerobic (30 minutes 5 days a week) and muscle-strengthening (2 days a week) activities.

          Reply
  12. kls on

    I’ve got a painful condition called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, and IMAK computer gloves bring marvelous relief. I don’t know how successful they’d be for carpal tunnel, but you might want to give them a try.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Interesting, Karen — so how do the gloves help?

      P.S. Please leave a full, real name if you’d like to comment on the blog. I usually remove fake names or abbreviations, but happened to recognize your email address. We’re trying to have real convos with real people here on the comments! TIA

      Reply

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