Somehow, about six weeks or so ago, I woke up with a very sore thumb/wrist area. I thought at first that Tiabeanie had jumped on it in the night. Then I started thinking it might be RSI (which would be completely valid), but eventually I gave up and realized I had no idea.

We tried several ways to solve it - I bought a wrist brace (thinking it was in the wrist, rather than the thumb). I then went to the doctor, who advised me that the wrist brace I have isn’t correct, so I bought a different one - one with thumb support. She suspected RSI as well, and in the mean time, $WORK bought me a shockingly expensive, super annoying “ergonomic” keyboard (a Kinesis Freestyle Pro).

I started working on stretches and so on, and experimenting with when and where to wear the brace, and for a time it seemed to be getting better. Then Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, I was playing videogames at my desk, with a blanket on my lap because it’s winter time, and I went to pull the blanket up. I felt something “pop”, and had a burning sensation somewhat reminiscent of when I broke my arm as a kid, but not as strong.

In to the A&E (“ER” for Americans) the next day, spending a significant portion of the day there. They repeated the X-rays that the GP had ordered, doing them slightly different this time. They also recommended an ultrasound, and physio. I definitely don’t have any breaks or fractures though.

Ultrasound came and went, mostly inconclusive. But my physio appointment was today, and what a help that was! I have a name for what I almost certainly have: de Quervain Tenosynovitis. It’s interesting to note that many consider it to be a repetitive strain injury, which would track, except the most common cause of it seems to be mouse and trackball users, when this is on the opposite hand. My working theory is that my incorrect use of the “ALT” key is to blame: instead of using the one with the opposite hand (so say, right ALT for ALT+F and left ALT for ALT+P and so on), I tend to reach my left thumb under my palm for all of them.

Anyway, the treatment plan seems reasonable: I have a hard plastic brace that both supports the thumb and prevents almost all movement except bending of the very far joint of the thumb, which does not hurt. I can still work, type, etc, I just should be paying careful attention to ergonomics because if this happened due to that, then likely other injuries are not far behind.

But what a relief so far! I can get dressed, get my phone out of my pocket, and a whole mess of other things without causing pain to myself.

After two weeks, I’ll go back and she’ll re-run some tests… once she’s satisfied that the tendons are calming down, I can start working on strengthening them again (as they’ll be quite unhappy having sat idle for some weeks) and wean off the brace.

It’s interesting that the “ALT key” hypothesis above is supported by wearing the brace… it’s basically the only activity I’ve had any grief with while wearing it. Indeed on the Wikipedia article linked above it specifically mentions phone scrolling and game controllers as possible factors, but neither of these activities are hampered by the brace or painful in any way, which makes me suspect that they’re not the culprit, despite being the obvious ones.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how it progresses in the next couple of weeks.

Update 2023-07-07: I took the brace off each time briefly to shower, though it’s very nerve wracking trying to clean oneself while making sure I don’t flex the thumb/wrist. It started to get a bit grotty feeling under it, so I figured I could use a baby wipe to wipe it down… this made things significantly worse and by the end of yesterday it was basically unbearable. Sabriena was going to the store and taking Duncan to a dentist appointment anyway, so she said she’d pick up a pair of pantyhose which the Physio recommended folks use in summer. She took great delight in telling Duncan “come on, let’s go buy your Dad some pantyhose” but then stressed we do not judge in this house.

So I cut it into a tube about 10" long, cut a thumb hole in it, and replaced the brace over it… immediate relief! I can now change these out (not sure how they’ll go being washed) and it’s completely tolerable to wear again. Hopefully my progress in the two weeks is good enough that I can start to wean off it though.

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle



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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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