Thursday, December 2, 2010

Revision Elbow and other writing induced Repetitive Strain Injuries

It's time for another Therapeutic Thursday post, and this one was inspired by the arm pain I suffered from while trying to wrap up my last manuscript in time for the GH deadline. Who knew writing could be dangerous?

I bet that you've all heard of Tennis Elbow or even Golfer's Elbow. Well, apparently writers have their own elbow ailment called Revision Elbow (or Student's Elbow). I'm not making this up, but I did laugh when I saw the name. Go figure. Revision Elbow is a repetitive strain injury suffered by anyone who works at a keyboard for lengthy periods of time. Fellow writers know that completing a manuscript draft requires hours at the computer on a daily basis (or most days), only to be followed by hours and hours of revisions. I've been suffering from elbow pain that radiates down my arm. That pain motivated a little research.

Check out this excellent article at Writers Services. According to the article, writers, and all keyboard/mouse users, can suffer from Tennis Elbow, Golfer's Elbow, and Revision Elbow. It describes the pain involved, the cause, and most importantly, what we can do to reduce our risk or alleviate the pain.

Another article by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz  over at Writing World, describes how yoga techniques can be used to reduce hand-wrist tension.

I've heard that squeezing massage balls or stress balls in your hands 15-20 times, several times a day, helps to strengthen fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms. That may help reduce the chance of injury, and it would be an easy, mindless thing to do while brainstorming characters, plots, or other manuscript ideas. Consider it physical therapy for writers. There are several hand excercises for writers described over at include the finger bend, finger walk, and shoulder-to-finger roll. I know these sound simple, but they really do help. In fact, I remembered Nora Roberts describing several of her arm/finger stretches at the chat she gave during RWA Nationals in DC in 2009. She stressed how important it was to do them (I can only imagine how important for such a prolific writer). Well, my writing schedule wasn't as rigid at the time so I filed the info somewhere in my brain. Now I understand what she meant.

Writing injuries can escalate to Hand Dystonia (writer's cramp) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Why let it go that far when you can do preventative excercises, or ones that'll nip the pain when it starts. Seriously, check out those links. Even if you  pick one or two stretches to stick with, it's better than nothing. Don't wait for the pain to hit right before deadline crunch time.

Edited to add a few more helpful sites: and

*Stop by Monday for a visit with author Jennifer Shirk. She's doing a fabulous holiday giveaway. You won't want to miss it!


  1. Seriously where was this helpful post b4 my hand had to go in a brace?
    Thanx for the tips i will definitely be using them.

  2. Oh no, Joanna! Sorry I'm too late :(. I hope the brace helps, and that you'll be able to shed it soon.

  3. ...and I'd love to hear about any excercises they recommend for a speedy recovery. I did physical therapy for my knees once, and the results were amazing.

  4. For pain in the neck I tried trigger point treatment. It worked. Sitting too long in front of the PC gave me awful pain in one side of my neck, but it's gone now.

  5. Seriously? That's awful. I keep thinking I'm about due for some writing-related injury myself.

  6. Nas, sorry about the pain in the neck. Glad your treatment worked. My post on computer fatigue syndrome has a link in it to a site on RULA (not my name, but an acronym). It gives diagrams on how to sit to reduce neck pain. I need to go back and see if there's a way to sit to reduce elbow and wrist strain too!

    Jennifer, I hope you remain uninjured! Looking forward to your visit here on Monday :).

  7. Mmm, I've never had a hint of any of these types of injuries. Not enough writing perhaps LOL??