Jason J. Gullickson

Jason J. Gullickson

The Disease

I've successfully avoided Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for 47 years but I fear it has finally caught-up with me.

After an unusually large amount of manual labor involving extensive use of [ power and demolition tools ](https://www.milwaukeetool.com/Products/Power- Tools/SAWZALL-Reciprocating-Saws/6509-31) I started waking-up at night with pain a numbness in some of my fingers. The feeling was similar to the pins- and-needles feeling of when a limb "falls asleep", but more extreme. At its worst, I'm unable to hold things or lift even moderate amounts of weight, and it continued to worsen until I was able to take a break from the project.

It's a few days later now and I've taken a few steps to try and reverse the effects. I'm minimizing the use of my hands for anything strenuous and performing regular hand and wrist exercises. I'm taking B-12 vitamins and I've started wearing wrist braces at night. I'm no longer waking-up at night, but I'm still unable to type for more than 10-15 minutes without having to take a break.

Each day there are improvements but there are also surprises. This morning I tried to do some reading in bed and found that there was no position in which I could hold my phone and read for more than 5 minutes without pain. I'm able to work longer on a laptop than I can with my phone, but not much longer. I tried writing with a pen a few days ago and that didn't last more than a minute (although I haven't tried again since the symptoms have subsided).

This is a common affliction in my field, and many of my friends and co-workers went through this in their 20's. For some reason I thought that if I didn't have it by now I was somehow going to be free of it, but that is not the case. I'm not sure what I could have done to avoid it, the heavy work coincided with the symptoms but I'm sure a lifetime of working at a keyboard laid the foundation and the two weeks of drilling and hammering only provided the final push over the edge. Hopefully taking a break from that sort of work and the additional steps I've taken since will let things go back to normal, but if not I will be in touch with my doctor soon.

What all of this has made me realize is just how many of the things I like to do require the use of my hands. This might sound obvious but as someone who spends a lot of time working in his head I didn't realize how important the physical act of recording thoughts and working through problems on paper is to my process. Not only programming, but other forms of writing, communication and research are all impacted by this injury and it has me seriously concerned about how I am going to pursue these things if this injury is persistent. This train of thought has reinvigorated my interest in direct human-to-computer interfaces, and may spur me to return to that work.

With any luck this will have served only as a warning, and with some care I'll be able to recover the use of my hands to a level that doesn't put too much drag on the ability to do the things I love, but if not I'll be pursuing alternatives to using my own hands and I'll try to share what I learn in hopes that others can benefit from the experience.

- Jason