Brace Yourself.

Brace Yourself.

One of the greatest things about being a human is having opposable thumbs. Perhaps you’ve never thought about this. Perhaps you take your thumbs for granted.

A few years ago, I was lifting a 50 lb bag of dog food out of the trunk of my car. As I flung it over my shoulder to carry it into the house, I felt a searing pain through my hand and wrist. I honestly thought I had broken my hand. Or, to be more precise, I thought perhaps I severed my thumb. After several days of pain I went to the doctor. Turns out I had De Quervain’s Tendinosis.

What’s that now?

De Quervain’s Tendinosis is an inflammation of the tendon (and all its tendony parts) on the thumb side of the wrist. There’s no one specific cause, rather the inflammation primarily happens as a result of repetitive movements. The orthopedist told me that he sees it a lot in mothers of young children because of all the diaper changing and dish-washing they do. That felt like a pretty sexist thing to say but since he knew how to treat it I wasn’t about to get into a feminist debate.

The pain is typically worse when making a fist or when grasping objects, particularly in a thumb to index finger manner. The treatment is to wear a brace. When it was severely inflamed, I was told to wear the brace as close to 24 hours a day as possible for two weeks. I could take it off to shower but that was about it. I was to find someone else to do all of my diapering and dish-washing.

He had warned that it would probably bother me on and off for the rest of my life. Turns out he’s right. Last night it was bothering me so much that I had to go dig out the old brace. I put it on and have since only taken it off to shower and write this post.

The brace helps the tendon heal by immobilizing the thumb. Have you ever had to live with an immobilized thumb? Here’s a list of the things that I’ve found easy to do with an immobilized thumb:

  • Sit.
  • Wear clothes (though not necessarily put them on or take them off).
  • Watch TV.
  • Listen to the radio.

Here is a list of things I’ve found difficult to do with an immobilized thumb:

  • Literally almost everything else.

I couldn’t grab my seat belt when I got in the car this morning. I could barely fold the laundry. I can’t do anything that involves water since the brace will get wet. I can’t really hold stuff. Reading is hard if I have to hold the thing I’m trying to read (most of my books don’t float, unfortunately). Eating anything that requires two hands is off the table. I could go on forever, except typing with the brace is close to impossible and typing without is too painful.

So you might be wondering what I did that caused this to flare up in the last few days. First, I mowed the lawn last week and I think holding the self-propelling bar on the mower strained it. It was tender, but tolerable. I think what put it over the edge was texting and typing on my phone. And now, both things are going to be problematic for a while.

I’m totally cool with the not mowing the lawn again soon part. That’s actually a good thing. It will give me some free time to practice my one-handed texting.


I have no choice but to give this post a thumbs up.

I have no choice but to give this post a thumbs up.

20 Responses to “Brace Yourself.”

  1. Jen says:

    ouch!! We take our thumbs for granted until we can’t anymore. :( Hope it feels better!

    • I think it’s fair to say I take all my limbs and digits for granted. I should probably stop doing that or the universe is going to keep teaching me lessons. Thanks!

  2. I have no choice but to give this a thumbs up, too.

  3. Sam Merel says:

    At the Pittsburgh Science Center there is this room that teaches kids about opposable thumbs, where the kids wear braces like yours to keep their thumbs from moving while they do tasks like buttoning a shirt, writing a grocery list, watering plants, etc. Turns out there actually isn’t much you can do without thumbs…Here’s hoping yours feel better soon!

    • Pittsburgh Science Center sounds like a really cool place. Makes me wish I lived closer to check it out! Thanks for the well wishes. Things are improving, though I probably should still be taking better care of myself.

  4. Lance says:

    who has two thumbs and writes a good essay , the girl I just read.

    well done michelle

  5. that stinks. i had no idea it was so limiting. love the thumbs up. so funny.

    • It’s so limiting. I really feel badly for people who have to get actual casts and are stuck like this for weeks. Here’s to hoping I never experience that sort of limitation.

  6. Stacie says:

    What a bummer! I love the photo though. Thumbs up from me too!

  7. blainecindy says:

    Oooh, so sorry to hear about your thumb. That can be no fun at all, especially for a writer. But you really only need your thumb for the space bar, right? LOL. Hope you’re better soon. Great post.

    • It’s true I don’t need to press anything but the spacebar, but the brace limits wrist movement too, so my hands don’t do what they naturally do. Yes, this has certainly made writing more difficult! I do enjoy the looks I get when I tell people the injury was “a typing accident.” Thanks for the well wishes!

  8. Look at you with the fancy formatted lists on WordPress.

    • I hit the bullet button on the dashboard thingamabob and then it looked fancy in the post. If you call pictures of sheets of paper where I had intended for their to be bullet points fancy, that is.

      Or maybe I was just supposed to say thank you :)

  9. Jen T says:

    Life with a permanent thumbs up? Hmmm… Feel better!

  10. inNateJames says:

    I think you found your Million Dollar Invention, Michelle: Floating Books!

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