I work part time as a librarian. Before that I, like many of you, had some preconceived notion that librarians had relatively easy jobs. You shelved books, gave people library cards, and wore cardigans like they were going out of style. Well, all of these things are true, but I didn’t realize just how much physical stress was involved in the job.
Now, I’m sure there’s a difference in public libraries and reference libraries. I happen to work in a reference library, so I can’t speak for those public librarians out there, but the physical strain my arms, wrists, and hands go through in a days work is enough to have already caused some serious problems.
Librarians Do A Lot Of Heavy Lifting
What goes on behind the closed doors of a reference library might surprise you. No, there’s no scientific experimentations or yakuza headquarters, but there is a lot of physical work going on. When you request materials, the librarians go in search of your requests in the tombs of the archives. Sometimes this means lifting heavy boxes and books for extended periods of time. Doesn’t sound too bad, though, right?
Except that when you consider the angle one must use to pull a book from the shelves, you end up with your wrist at a very odd angle. An angle that wrists aren’t that accustomed to. Too much of this can lead to carpal tunnel or even tendonitis. Just imagine pulling endless amounts of heavy books off a shelf with little time in between to rest your forarms and wrists. I recently reorganized a few shelves of my library, moving book after book to different shelves, as well as incorporating new books into the collection. The next day, my wrists were killing me. They ached relentlessly, which left me massaging my forearms in hopes the pain would stop. Unfortunately my feeble attempts didn’t do much good. I knew I had to go in search of something better.
What Are Carpal Tunnel And Tendonitis?
According to OrthoInfo,
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.
In most patients, carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time, so early diagnosis and treatment are important. Early on, symptoms can often be relieved with simple measures like wearing a wrist splint or avoiding certain activities.
If pressure on the median nerve continues, however, it can lead to nerve damage and worsening symptoms. To prevent permanent damage, surgery to take pressure off the median nerve may be recommended for some patients.
while, according to HSS,
Tendonitis (also known as tendinitis or tenonitis) is a general term used to describe inflammation associated with a tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bone, and inflammation of these rope-like tissues is the most common cause of soft-tissue pain. Tendonitis differs from arthritis, which refers to inflammation of a joint. Common areas for the condition include the shoulder (which involves inflammation at one of the tendons of the rotator cuff), the elbow (tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow), the wrist, the knee (above and below the kneecap), the back of the ankle (Achilles tendonitis) and the foot.
The onset of tendonitis can usually be attributed to overuse of the associated area, but can also occur in areas where calcium deposits have developed.. As we grow older, repetitive motion can injure the tendon where it attaches to the bone, promoting an inflammatory response by the body. This inflammation can cause “pain on motion,” swelling, warmth, tenderness, and redness. This latter symptom is called “erythema” and refers to the dilation of the blood’s capillaries as part of the inflammatory process.
I’m sure there are countless ways in which a wrist could develope carpal tunnel or tendenitis. You can find cases of these wrist pains in secretaries, hairstylists, I.T. workers…the list goes on. And if you, like me, don’t know the proper stretches you can use to alleviate that built up stress, you could find yourself in a lot of pain!
What To Do About It?
First of all, let’s list the obvious ways to alleviate this problem, or at least make it more managable.
You can always try to:
Give it a rest
Wear a splint
Stretch the inflamed area
Avoid repetitive movements
Ask a medical professional
Sometimes these work, but you can’t always avoid repetitive movements if it’s for your job, and wearing a splint can make other tasks uncomfortable. It is always best advised to see a doctor if you are concerned you may be developing carpal tunnel or tendonitis. But I also understand that visits to the doctor can be expensive in this era and young professionals don’t always have the resources available to afford these costs. (Hello, this is why we need universal health care!)
I’d like to share with you some of the exercises I have found that helped ease those wrist pains to become more managable. My particular case of pain started in the lower palm of my hand, where it attaches to the wrist. The pain eventually spread to my thumbpad and the upper side of my wrist, encasing most of my thumb with a steady dull aching. I was having difficulties finding exercises for this particular area. These resources are the ones I have found most helpful.
After trying the very first exercise, I felt immediate relief. I couldn’t believe it! It still hurt, but the pain wasn’t a constant throb like it had been seconds earlier. Instead it only hurt when I moved my hand in a certain position. I continued to do this stretch and I do believe it triggered the exact tendon that was cramped, because the relief continued.
Afterwards, I found this video, and discovered that it stretched parts of my arms that I never really noticed were tight. I don’t know if this specifically helped my aching wrists because I couldn’t feel an immediate relief, but feeling the other muscles stretching in my arms, shoulders, and neck made me realize just how tight I was. I followed his instructions and my arms felt great afterwards. Of course it always feels good to stretch.
If anyone has any other suggestions, I would be so grateful for your input. If you are experiencing wrist pain, I urge you to contact your doctor if possible and practice self care by following some of the suggestions above. If you found this post helpful, please leave a comment, like, share, and subscribe!
Take care, and don’t forget to take your medications!