Stopping the Pain – 8 methods I use to keep drawing through tendonitis/carpal tunnel

Here’s the post on how I got my hand to hurt non-stop. Long story short, I pinched my pen when drawing and messed up my hand/wrist.

I am not giving up! Never!

Now I never wanted to stop drawing. I tried it for a few weeks at a time, without my hand getting better, so I developed coping strategies instead. All of the below tips helped to:

1) keep drawing through the pain

2) stop increasing the damage

The damage reversed from the worst point, but never healed. So this is not a cure for carpal tunnel, this is more “living with” carpal tunnel.

So here’s to soothing my hurting hand…

  1. MVP OF MY ARTIST LIFE: THE WRIST BRACE

The wrist band I use is from Futuro, it covers my hand + part of arm and also has a piece of metal in it. You can find version for guys or for the left hand on Amazon.

It’s pricey at around $30, but I can wash it in the laundry & it’s still fine after more than a year.

I’m a huge fan. I tried a bunch of braces, splints, wrist bands and after comparing them: you gotta find a good one. Some braces didn’t have any effect on reducing pain.

You also gotta know how to use it. Put it on at night and sleep with your wrist brace, so your drawing hand recovers overnight.

Do not use it when drawing. That’s what I did at first and my symptoms got worse. Why? When you put a brace on, you’re enabling yourself to keep drawing when your wrist is about to give out. Your wrist doesn’t support itself anymore, so it atrophies. Lastly, you leave bad form unattended.

Sleeping with a wrist band also prevents tendonitis/carpal tunnel. 10/10 good method.

2. SHAKE IT OFF
My classmates got familiar with me doing this all the time:

Hand-Shake

I don’t know why, but shaking my hand like that soothes the pain for 12-15 seconds. I’ll take it. I still do it often and it just feels so good… a bit of relief in my wrist…

3. IBUPROFEN
I did go to the doctor a few weeks after the pain started. He prescribed me a bunch of pills and creams that had zero effect. I kept struggling, but thanks to having some injuries earlier in life, I knew a remedy.. So I went back and demanded an Ibuprofen prescription. Two weeks of ibuprofen lessened the pain quite a bit. I tried several times to push past the plateau, but it won’t budge. The ibuprofen was good to take me from the peak of a pain level that I’d call “bearable”.

Ibuprofen helps tendonitis, but not carpal tunnel.

That’s why I hit a plateau in recovery. The drugs fixed the tendonitis part, but couldn’t touch the carpal tunnel.

If you’re in the U.S., ibuprofen is an over the counter drug (you can even get it on Amazon, the US is crazy!). In most countries, it’s doctor prescription only. Ibuprofen damages your stomach, so don’t use it as a crutch. Try it for two weeks, see if you get improvement, get off it as soon as your recovery hits a plateau.

4. DROP THE PEN
So I had a few symptoms, tingling (still have that), throbbing pain, movement pain, blahblahblah, but the really bad ones were these sharp stings that I would get. Suddenly this flash of intense pain shooting through my hand… I winced whenever it happened, but carried on. Then I tried something: whenever I’d feel that zinger of pain, I would literally drop my pen. Sting, stop, drop. Wait a little, maybe do that hand-shake again. Continue.

I don’t know why but the very day I started doing that, my pain was improving.

5. NO PAIN KILLERS
Okay, I got a string opinion on this. The only time you take pain killers is when you can’t fall asleep due to pain. Eh, and during surgery maybe.

Pain is a warning signal. If you mute the signal, next time you draw beyond the breaking point and mess up everything beyond repair. Byebye drawing career (seriously, the fear of losing my future as an artist was worse than dealing with the pain!).

Keep this in mind when you take ibuprofen – ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory but it’s also a pain killer.

6. USE YOUR NON-DOMINANT HAND for everything else.
Use your other hand for the touchpad, mouse, typing, for using your fork, carrying stuff and opening doors. For brushing your teeth, for opening bottles, for picking your nose. Just don’t wear out your sore hand more than necessary.

7. WACOM TABLET SET-UP

Well, as in the picture I showed earlier.

IMAG1550

This set-up is so essential that I’ll make a separate post about it. But in short:

– Put paper on the tablet. With the extra grip, you can relax your wrist without the pen slipping.

– (not visible in picture): socks taped around the pen, so I don’t have to bend my fingers all the way.

– bandage tying the pen to my hand, so I don’t have to use force to hold the pen. Also helps keeping my wrist straight.

8. DON’T STRETCH OR EXERCISE (until after it heals)

Holy damn, stretching hurts and knocks my hand out for a while. Stretching is good to prevent carpal tunnel, not heal it. It’s like exercise. Exercise is great to strengthen your muscles and prevent injury, but doing weightlifting with torn shoulder muscles is gonna mess ya up. Let ‘m heal, get back to stretching when you’re better.

How am I doing now? 

It’s the two year anniversary of my wrist pain! 😀

Yup, still got daily pain. It is sooooo much better than the worst period though and I go through daily life without problems.

At this point in time, I still can’t do yoga or push-ups unless I use my fists instead of flat hands. I’m strong enough to starts strengthening my wrist again though, got some advice from a physical therapist and I’m doing targeted exercise occasionally. I do not think my carpal tunnel is gonna heal itself. But I can live with this. The happiness from drawing offsets the pain from my mild carpal tunnel. It offsets any pain, actually. Draw or die. Ha! Jk, but I love drawing.

To close with, here’s two tips that other people use:

1. Heat pads. Keep your wrist warm. I would put my wrist on my laptop charger! Drop the pen replaced this coping method for me.

2. Massages. For me, massages caused more pain, but some folks report improvement. Try it and let me know.

I hope your wrist feels better after reading this!

– Iris 🙂

One thought on “Stopping the Pain – 8 methods I use to keep drawing through tendonitis/carpal tunnel”

  1. Thank you for the post!
    I definitely agree with all of these. I got interesting tip from my doctor that helped me – icing my wrist instead of heating it on the peak of pain. She also told me to do gentle wrist stretches right away, but maybe my case wasn’t as bad.

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