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Retouching Injuries?

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  • Retouching Injuries?

    This would seem the most appropriate category to post this question. And yes at first glance it seems funny. But was wondering how many others out there suffer (even just a little) from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), also referred to as repetitive motion disorder (RMD). Basically from use of the stylus or mouse all day long.

    I have been retouching for many years, but since the beginning of the year I've had a 9-5 only doing retouching. I work exclusively with a stylus. I have been noticing a stiffness in the joints of my index finger. I don't think I hold the stylus tight at all but wondering what I can start to do about it. And wondering who else might suffer as well. Thanks

  • #2
    Re: Retouching Injuries?

    I added a wrist pad to my tablet a few years back due to wrist pain. It helped a lot. Your local office supply store probably sells foam sleeves meant for pens and pencils. I've heard some people add those to their stylus (you have to cut a little slot for the toggle).
    Learn by teaching
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    • #3
      Re: Retouching Injuries?

      Hi Mike
      Sorry to hear about the stiffness. I have had some ergonomic issues at the computer that cause some problems. Fixed the ergonomic problems and the issues went away. They were not caused by repetiive motion but from arms, wrists, fingers (and also a knee) not being in what I was told was the neutral position. This may or may not relate to your issue so take a grain of salt with the info and also consider consulting your doctor.

      It was described to me that if any of your muscles are not in their natural/neutral position for long enough periods of time then the flexor and extensor muscles for that appendage one will stretch and the other will shrink creating muscular issues and pain. The advice I was given was to arrange the ergonomics the best way so that all muscle pairs where in their neutral position (e.g. split keyboard, arm height, keyboard angle etc). When I could not arrange this in ergonomics, I was told to do exercises for that appendage every 30 minutes for a minute or so (minimum once per hour). They suggested setting a computer timer as a reminder.

      On the other hand, there are pains that come with aging independent of that. Good luck on getting a fix.


      • #4
        Re: Retouching Injuries?

        Nice thread, thanx for starting it out Mike...


        • #5
          Re: Retouching Injuries?

          In my day job I was mousing a lot and it was causing problems. I've moved exclusively to a stylus which has helped significantly though there are times I still get some aching in my forefinger. See if your tablet maker (Wacom) has a stylus with a fatter rubber grip, like on the Intuous. The larger size may help.


          • #6
            Re: Retouching Injuries?

            Consider seeing a medical professional. That's a pretty common symptom of tendonitis in the elbow/radial nerve. The radial nerve (if I recall correctly) could cause stiffness in the index finger. The ulnar nerve on the other side would hit the pinky or the ring finger.

            If your chair arms are hard plastic put a towel over it as this will help. Keeping the wrist and hands just a bit below the elbow in height should help. Just be sure this doesn't force your shoulders upwards as that can also cause problems. If your desk is too high that can be a problem. If the doctor feels something like this out and determines it isn't bad they'll probably suggest icing it and anti inflammatories as needed. If it's a tendon issue it might need some time to heal.

            I hope this helps.


            • #7
              Re: Retouching Injuries?

              Thanks everyone. This is helpful.

              I'm freelancing and tend to get whatever is available in office situations so i adjust equipment as best i can. Usually the workspace is "ok" using common desk height keyboard/tablet and adjustable office chair.

              Fingers - I've been checking myself as I work to make sure I've been keeping a loose grip on the stylus. I don't use a wrist rest cause I have a large tablet and continuously use the entire surface of the tablet. And my stylus is the thicker, padded type. So i think my approach is going to be little exercise breaks (using stress, foam ball) and stretching the fingers/wrist backwards (cyclist stretch).

              Back - I also have had back issues in the past and thought I would throw in what I do for that. I get up a couple times a day and hit the floor (it gets looks and compliments in the office environments), and do a couple basic yoga poses just for a few seconds (upward dog and child's pose). I also stand close to and facing away from a wall... twist my torso, reaching around with both hands and grab the wall to gently help stretch the twisting motion. This generally cracks my back every time.

              Thanks all and hope this can help others.


              • #8
                Re: Retouching Injuries?

                I've been unable to do a "normal" push-up for a while due to weak/jacked up wrists due to many years of computer/mouse use. My solution was to make a fist and put my arms down on my knuckles, instead of bending at the wrist and having my palms down. I recently went to a CrossFit gym, and the guy there mentioned he had that problem as well from computer games, and did some wrist stretching and that fixed him up. I'm doing that stretching now sporadically, and it seems to be helping me out as well.


                • #9
                  Re: Retouching Injuries?

                  ok, a few pointers from me. the nervous system is a 'sympathetic' system, meaning simply, what happens on one side, tends to also exhibit itself in some manner on the other. yeah, sounds a bit odd, but it's true. it's also true that the body is a system. if you consider any one part for a treatment, you're missing the larger picture. thus, my first advice is exercise. but, not just in the hand affected. exercise both hands and the arms and even the back a bit to help with the hand problem. all those nerves connect.

                  for the back, consult a physician or chiropractor. i'd go to the latter first. but, if that's a bit distasteful, i know for me (and this is only me. i'm not a studied doctor with lots of cases to go by), a little exercise on the lower back muscles does wonders. i also tend to like a stiffer bed, as this seems to keep the spine in better alignment for me.

                  also, i'd highly recommend a good straight-backed chair with NO 'ergonomic' head and neck rest. to me, those neck support things cause more problems than they alleviate. get a good straight-back chair and preferably a straight, flat chair bottom. i know of at least one study that proves straight-back chairs are better for the back. if i remember correctly, it's because they force the muscles to work a bit, which then helps to support the back better. you get one of those idiot ergonomic jobs, with all the contours and rest this and rest that and you're basically allowing the muscles to rest too long, so they tend to atrophy a bit, thus giving less support and more eventual pain.

                  i dont use a stylus a lot, but i can certainly see that the muscles might tend to 'remember' the position they've been in for a long while. you can demonstrate this principle by standing in a doorway and have your arms straight downward and then, while keeping them stiff and straight, move them up and outwards toward the door frame and keep pushing them upwards (while still stiff) and do so almost as hard as you can for a minute or two. then, totally relax them and see what happens. that's muscle memory. your hands do the same thing. exercise or even just moving them around a bit shld help a lot. just make sure you do it with both hands.

                  and one other little trick you can try is, change hands with the stylus. if you're normally right-handed, use it in the left. like i said earlier, the nervous system is sympathetic, so work both sides fairly equally. it's quite possible a baseball pitcher could extend the life of his arm by simply throwing with the other arm a lot.

                  there are also assists you can do to restore communication with the hand and back, but i'll leave those go for another time


                  • #10
                    Re: Retouching Injuries?

                    Originally posted by Kraellin View Post
                    if i remember correctly, it's because they force the muscles to work a bit, which then helps to support the back better. you get one of those idiot ergonomic jobs, with all the contours and rest this and rest that and you're basically allowing the muscles to rest too long, so they tend to atrophy a bit, thus giving less support and more eventual pain.
                    Going to add one thing to this, the ergo arms can help if your elbows or shoulders are being forced into a bad position. On my previous chair the arms were too high and fixed. This combined with weights 2-3 times a week made my shoulders very sad I gave up lifting for a long time but the shoulder irritation didn't truly go away until I got a chair where the arms could be lowered a bit.


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