Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A warning to painters

Hi folks, you may have noticed that it has been a little quiet on the painting front for a few weeks, well this is why:

That thing is a wrist splint containing two aluminium bars designed to immobilise my hand and arm into a straight line. Why the hell am I wearing it? Good question, here's the saga:

About a month or so ago I started noticing stiffness in my wrist, I put this down to the long hours of painting I was doing (eight to ten hours a day some days). Yeah, take note of that, it'll get important later. Chewed down ibuprofen and called it good. Then about a month ago I had an incident where I tried to put weight through it while bent and nearly collapsed from the pain. I figured that I had pulled something - I was at an LRP event after all and minor injuries are par for the course - and once again ignored it and continued doing my days spent either with brush in hand of at a laptop keyboard and awkward trackpad (see where this is going?).

Then a fortnight ago I started noticing painful twinges in the back of my wrist when held in flexion. They weren't too bad but I resolved to keep an eye on it. Well, I didn't have to wait long, last weekend I ran an RPG game for our friends, lots of computer and trackpad use over a 6 hour period. By the end of it I was getting sharp stabs of pain that were not blunted one bit by the anti-inflammatories. Worse, the pain continued after I had stopped. I could move my fingers but if I flexed my wrist it was like getting injections. A sharp stab followed by a spreading burn. I went to the doctor.

So long story short - "too late!" - I have acute RSI tendonitis. It isn't the dread carpel tunnel syndrome (that is the underside of the wrist) but the tendons on the back of my hand and wrist have become damaged by long hours of repeated work. I associated Repetetive Strain Injury so closely with computer work that it never even occured to me that I could do myself in with a paintbrush. There is no treatment except rest for the tendons - hence the brace - and the usual handfuls of ibuprofen. I still have full use of fingers but am having to figure out how to work around the brace, especially when painting. I'm also having to cut my output considerably and work in much shorter bursts with significant breaks in between.

In summary I feel pretty dense. I am a Biomedical scientist by virtue of my degree and have spent two thirds of my life in this hobby. How I could have failed to connect the RSI dots is beyond me. Also, just because my mental stamina allows me to paint for eight straight hours does not mean that my body can even remotely keep up. Please let this be a lesson to everyone reading this. Short bursts, decent breaks, proper computer mice and rests (apparantly the using trackpads only for a year and a half didn't help) and common sense to not discount twinges. They are the bodies way of saying "please stop doing that".

There should be some pretty pictures in a few days as I am working on some personal stuff (to test out techniques with the new bionic wrist before I embark on client models) but until then, please look after yourselves.



  1. Wow, health warning well noted! Hopefully you can find a way to work with this but you will undoubtedly have to pull back on your output! Hopefully that in itself isn't too stressful for you!

    good luck.

  2. Wow, thanks for the warning. I've been such a slacker lately with my own painting that I doubt I have much to fear, although it is good advice nonetheless. I hope you recover quickly and can find a way to still paint as much as you'd like to but without impairing your health in the process. Best wishes to you!

  3. Sorry to hear bud, Nature will tell you when you are working too hard !!!


  4. Suddenly I'm a lot more relaxed about my total lack of self-discipline when it comes to sitting down and painting stuff!

    May your recovery be speedy.