For many years, I was an administrative and executive assistant. I loved my job, and it paid well, but it was damaging to my health in a way I never expected. I started to have constant numbness, tingling and pain in my hands and arms, and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Constant Pounding of Typewriter Keys Permanently Damaged My Nerves
When I first started working in offices, there were no computers. On the first office job I ever had, I used a manual typewriter. The early electric models weren’t much better, because you still had to pound on the keys. The keyboards were large and didn’t fit my small hands, so I was constantly stretching to reach the outer keys. Before word processors and desktop computers, you could only turn out work as fast as you could type it, so I spent many days sitting at the keyboard pounding away for a 6 or 7 of my 8 hours a day.
My Diagnosis and Treatment
Back then, doctors did not know a lot about carpal tunnel syndrome. The main recommendation was to stop doing what was causing the problem. Since I was a single mom, I couldn’t do that. Splints helped the pain, but I could not type with them on, so I only wore them at night. Narcotic painkillers were the only thing that allowed me to sleep, and I didn’t want to become addicted to them. I could never afford the surgery or the resulting time away from work.
It became almost unbearable to do my job, and I started to lose time from work. By the time I was 30, I knew I could not continue with my career, so I went back to college to study horticuture.
Injury Takes Me Back in Time
After a back injury and surgery, I could no longer perform the heavy work required in commercial horticulture, so I hesitantly went back to office work. Within a few years, the carpal tunnel flared again, and I had to stop. I went into retail, which was low-paying but better on my hands; however, it was not good on my elbows and shoulders. After I injured my shoulder lifting and had surgery, retail was not an option either.
Right Back Where I Started
The only talent I had to make a living after retail was writing. So I’m right back where I started, typing all day. Thankfully, touch typing on a laptop does not cause as much stress to my hands. Also, working at home, I can rest and stretch if and when I want, or ice my wrists if it gets too bad. I never need narcotics anymore.
While writing has been good to me, I can feel my fingers tingling as I type this, and know it is time to stop for awhile. I will always have carpal tunnel, but it flares less often. Technology has made it less of a problem than in the days when I was pounding those manual typewriter keys.