tendonitis in my right wrist from computer use and capoeira

by Sally

I started having problems with my wrist in October 2010. At that time I was living abroad and working as a Teaching Assistant. I had just finished college and during school I did a lot of work on my computer (sometimes 10 hours per day including work and studying) and even had a couple of full-time office jobs in the summers, but with no problems to my wrist.

In my teaching assistant job I would only use my computer for a few hours a week for lesson planning and not at all while working.

Then I suddenly started to have wrist pain in my right wrist for about 1-2 weeks in Oct 2010. It came on suddenly. It hurt on the top/back side of my wrist, and it grew to the point where it hurt to even dig around in my purse to find my keys because of the motions. I stopped everything - I stopped going to the gym (especially push-ups aggravated it), stopped salsa dancing, and bought a very cheap wrist "brace" from the store that really was not very good quality.

I didn't see a doctor because I wasn't sure how the foreign medical system worked.

Luckily, my symptoms mysteriously disappeared as suddenly as they had initially come on, after about 1-2 weeks.

I didn't have any further problems until April 2011. It hurt for about a week or two while traveling (and minimal computer use), but this was after about a week of heavier computer use than normal because I was starting a new website project in my spare time.

Went away again, then came back in May for about a week, and in June, stopped hurting while I went trekking for two weeks, came back in July and August, on and off. Sometimes I would feel pain for a few days, then not all for a week, then it would come back. I noticed it often felt better while I was traveling , away from computer usage, and felt worse when I was on the computer a lot.

At that point I had returned to the US and told my doctor about it. she said I probably had tendonitis and gave me a good wrist brace that actually partially covers your fingers and has a hard bottom. She recommended that I wear it all the time until the pain goes away. I didn't start wearing it right away because the symptoms were temporarily gone.

At the end of August 2011 I started a new job. This job involves 8 hours per day of computer usage. Not very much typing, but lots of staring at the screen and constant scrolling through pages and pages of documents, checking information. Immediately upon starting the new job my wrist pain came back and this time it didn't go away. It always hurt while working. In the first week I started to always wear the brace while I was at work, and then take it off immediately after I got off work.

This solution was working for about 3 months. As long as I wore the wrist brace while I was at work and whenever I was using the computer at home, I didn't experience wrist pain. If I tried to use the computer without the brace I would immediately feel pain in my right wrist, the top part.

Unfortunately in the past couple of weeks the pain has intensified. I think my arm has become so accustomed to the brace that it no longer does anything to stop the pain. I have been in pain while working even though I wear the brace. Sometimes the pain is so bad that I can barely do my job because it hurts so much to use the mouse, and to a lesser extent the keyboard.

A couple of notes about me: I am 27 years old, female. I recently started a vegetarian diet in February of 2011, so I am not sure if that has any affect on it. But the pain had already appeared in October of 2010, before I made that diet change.

I had never experienced pain in my wrist before this. However, for about 6 months Feb-Aug of 2010 I was doing capoeria a sport that involves acrobatic motions that put a lot of strain on the wrist, like handstands, backbends, and balancing all your body weight on your arms. I noticed some soreness in my wrist at the time that I was doing the sport, and so I thought maybe my wrists were weak and needed to be strengthened. But I never had tendonitis symptoms at the time.

In Feb 2011 I actually resumed capoeira just for one month, but then I injured my hamstring from over-extension. The thing is I have always had very tight hamstrings, from being a long-distance runner for several years, and so I think the tightness in my hamstring made me more injury prone. Could that have an effect on
my wrist?

I also have had chronic tension in my back, especially my upper back near my neck, but I never really did anything to address it.

What makes the pain worse: using the computer, especially the mouse and to a lesser extent typing. I can no longer use the mousepads on laptops, I always have to plug in my own mouse.

What makes the pain better: This is very ironic, but actually salsa dancing makes it better. Now that I have stopped capoeira I have resumed salsa dancing and usually dance 3-4 times per week, with partners.

At first I thought this would make the pain worse because the guys literally pull on the wrist and guide you by the wrist/arm in the various movements. It involves lots of tension in the arms to make the movements possible. But actually, I have noticed that on some days I will be experiencing intense wrist pain while at work during the day, and then when I go dance my symptoms completely disappear.

It's like a miracle that I can be in so much pain during the day and then it just disappears during those few hours when I dance. My thought is that maybe this is because I am so relaxed when I dance, and it's a healthy movement in the arms, unlike the repetitive motion of scrolling on the mouse that contributes to my ongoing pain now?

I guess it relieves overall tension in my body and arm at least temporarily, even though it's ironic because it involves putting direct tension on the arm.

What I have been doing: I tried the ice dip method back in September of 2011, for about a week or two, while living out of a hotel for business travel, but I was not extremely consistent. It definitely helped and for awhile I was actually able to make it through the work day without wearing my brace. I stopped doing it when I got back home because it was harder for me to clear out the sink, etc. and the pain came back.

I revisited your website and for the past week I have been extremely diligent. I do the ice dip almost every single day, 10 repetitions of 10 seconds over a 2 hour period. I also do the ice massage with the Dixie cups, 1-3 times per day, 5 minutes at a time. I have started to store dixie cups in the freezer at work so I do it once or twice during the work day (in the bathroom) and this helps tremendously in getting me through the day.

I also recently visited a physical therapist regarding my hamstring issue (I have lingering pain and tightness even though I was injured in February), and have been very diligent about doing daily hamstring stretches.

I have not seen a physical therapist regarding my wrist because my doctor says this is a work-related injury because I type at work, and that I would have to go through worker's comp. I'm still not sure if I want to go through all that hassle, but I might have to soon if this problem continues.

After a week of doing all this self care, I am able to type this message without wearing my brace and I don't feel pain.

I will continue rigorously following the ice regimen, but I was wondering if you could give me any input.

What could be causing the problem? Do you think it is computer usage? (I have been using computers since I was 5 years old and only had the problem this past year. HOwever, it's obvious that computer usage AGGRAVATES the problem). Or could it have been from sports? (excessive pressure on my wrist in capoeira). Or general tightness in my body?

What about my diet? I don't want to have to go back to eating meat. I eat very few animal products as it is now, I limit my eggs and dairy but don't completely abstain. But I do realize that it is rather coincidental that this problem started more or less at the same time I changed my diet, so maybe I could take some supplements or something to help my body against any deficiences.

Sometimes when I do the ice dip or ice massage, I notice a shooting pain that goes up my entire arm to my shoulder. And at other times I hear weird popping or squeaking noises while doing the ice massage. Is this normal?

sorry that this question was so long, but I wanted to give background information.

Thanks for your help and for your useful website!


Joshua Answers:


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Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Mar 12, 2012
Joshua Replies to Sally - tendonitis in my right wrist from computer use and capoeira
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments:

Hi Sally.

That's great the icing helps so much. That's a really good sign.

1. Does being vegetarian have much to do with your Wrist Tendonitis Symptoms? It just all depends. Are you a 'good' vegetarian or do you eat lots of junk food that doesn't have animal in it but still isn't good for you? (pasta, mainstream soy products, processed wheat in bread and chips etc, margarine, etc).

Vegetarians are notorious for being B12 deficient, and often don't get enough good fat.

If you eat eggs from organic pastuered chickens, that's GOOD. If you drink raw milk, that's GOOD. (You SHOULD limit processed, pasteurized milk, there's no reason to drink it and lots of reasons not to.)

Having said that, since the icing is so effective, that tells me that it's not primarily a nutritional thing.

2. It makes sense that salsa dancing does the body good. Increased blood flow, happy endorphins, focus on fun instead of work. And yes, one's mental state has a HUGE influence on a Pain Causing Dynamic.

Tendonitis can show up for a variety of reasons. Sometimes from repetitive strain, sometimes from Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) which essentially means that the brain avoids mental/emotional stresses by creating a real pain by clamping down on muscles and cutting off oxygen to the nerve(s).

See: What Is Tendonitis

So if you're in bad pain at work and NO pain when having fun, that's a very interesting clue.

3. Can tight hamstrings cause wrist pain? In an indirect way, yes. Everything's connected. And if you have undue tension stressing the structure as you're sitting and holding yourself up and stabilizing in shoulders and back to move the wrist around all day long....it's all connected.

4. Strengthening things up may very well be helpful in your situation. For instance, whether it's a handstand in Capoeira or stabilizing/moving a mouse all day, it requires muscle strength/ability to fire. If you're less strong than the job requires, then you get strain and wear.

So...how are things now and what have you been doing currently for self care?

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