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ERGONOMICALLY SPEAKING ....

A fellow miniaturist Helen in Honeychurch had an accident and cut her hands badly. She wrote, "My right hand is VERY dominant and I would advise everyone to make themselves as ambidextrous as they can if they have use of both hands. You never know what life will chuck at you." 

This is excellent advice. 

A few weeks before I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand, the orthopedist told me, "Learn to use your left hand NOW. Practice brushing your teeth, combing your hair, putting on your makeup, fastening a button, pulling up a zipper, pulling your pants down - all the little things you do every day and take for granted. Your mind needs all its focus on healing after the surgery, and you don'twant to have to learn these things when you are in pain and frazzled," he said. 

"You can even get a left-handed toothbrush," he added with a smile.

He was so right. The surgery and rehabilitation period were demanding enough, without my fretting about whether I could even comb my hair! Fortunately, the surgery was successful. I did all the exercises and rehab, and my right hand no longer hurts, thank goodness, unless I overdo, but nothing like that grinding pain of the past. Using scissors is still not good for me, and i have purchased ergonomic varieties in several sizes.

I still use my left hand occasionally instead of the right, and always for certain things, like lifting a heavy pitcher of water or a coffeepot, etc., even though I am right dominant. 

Unfortunately, the carpal tunnel in my left hand is worsening, so I may need to change back over. 

At present, I use a Freedom Thumb Spica Splint on my left hand at night and at certain times. Because it also immobilizes and protects my left thumb, it really helps when I am holding a book for a long reading session, or needing to pull my suitcase in the airport, etc.

Speaking of pain.... 

I had severe pain and stiffness in my neck for months, primarily on the left side. Even though I was doing physical therapy, my son said, "You're just treating the symptoms, Mama. You need to figure out what's causing this." He used to work for Levi's and was quite knowledgeable about making work places more ergonomic, and directed me to several websites. 

I did as he said, researched, and after applying the appropriate questions carefully to my situation, realized that I had four major problems, ergonomically speaking:

1. Even though we had bought what was supposedly a smaller scale recliner, it still proved not to fit my size. The built in head rest hit me at the wrong spot so that for all the hours while I watched televison or read, my head was thrust forward at an awkward angle.

2. The chair I was using at the computer was too wide. Its built-in arm rests could not be altered, so my arms were out too far from my body and under constant strain while I was trying to type.

3. The keyboard was too low on my pull-out tray, which added to my unnatural posture.

4. I do a lot of writing, as well as working with graphics for my minis and website, and there was no room to push the keyboard further left because of the L-shaped extension. I realized that I was always at an awkward angle any time I was at the computer, constantly stretching to the left because I had to reach past the numbers keypad to get to the text keys. 

So, 

1. I searched online for small scale recliners with unstructured backs. Lane has one without the bulky built-in head rest thing; the entire back is like one giant pillow.

I checked for stores locally that handled the brand and located the exact chair. My husband replaced his chair, too, although his is larger, and we love them. (This shows a print; mine is solid off-white.)

2. I switched chairs at the computer. The office chair that was at my worktable has adjustable arm rests and is much smaller, and works much better at the computer. The larger chair works fine at my work table, too, because I rarely use the arm rests anyway when I am working on minis.

3. I had an extra shelf that came with my computer armoire; I just slid it under the keyboard on the pull-out tray. It added about an inch in height, which made a big difference, surprisingly.

4. I am now using a left-handed keyboard. Never knew there was such a thing before, but my husband found it online. Looks just like the regular one, except the section with the numbers keypad and Insert, Home, Page Up, etc., keys, is on the left. I don't use the numbers key pad, anyway, so it made all the difference in the world to switch. Took a bit of getting used to, but it was worth it. 

Now I can sit straight at the computer with my arms at the appropriate angle. When I work at my work table I can take a moment to rest my arms comfortably on those big arm rests, and when I sit in my recliner to watch tv or read, my head does not jut forward but rests comfortably against the chair back.

And then I looked at my work area.

I noticed, too, that I was also putting stress on my neck as I watched tv at my work desk, since it was slightly off to my left. I can't move the tv in my workroom, but now most of the time I work on a plastic cutting board or a tray that I lay across the pulled-out top drawer. It provides work space and allows me to look up, straight ahead, if I want to watch tv while working on minis.

Since making these changes I have not had a painful neck and have not had to return to the doctor.

Hurray for Ergonomics and sons who know about such things!

 

 

 

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