Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Not a Hand to Stand On

Usually, when we have an injury, we look for ways to adapt our actions in order to continue to take care of business. If the injury is one arm, we have another arm that can usually be substituted, though often more clumsily. I am in a situation where both arms/hands have problems. My right arm (my dominant one) has had a recent recurrence of a pain that surrounds my shoulder blade on that side when I use that hand unsupported away from my body.
The instinct would be to decrease use of that arm, and to use it cautiously. This would require increased use of my left hand, and therein lies the problem. I have developed trigger thumb in my left hand, for which I will be having surgery on January 12. The tendon at the base of my thumb has a knot in it, which causes my thumb to snap whenever I try to bend or straighten it. It is painful, especially if my hand has been resting. Opening jars and grasping large items is out of the question.
So what to do? I have been planning ahead, doing ahead of time some tasks that I know are coming up that require 2 hands. I have also been looking at simple adaptations that make two handed tasks possible for a one handed person. Items such as shampoo, soap and hand lotion in pump bottles are an example. Pull on clothing, without buttons or zippers are easier to get on and off, such as sweats and t-shirts. Looser clothing is also easier. There are slip-on shoes, or shoe laces that are elastic. My favorite kind are coiled. You lace them into your shoes instead of regular laces, and they make your shoes into slip-ons that don't require tying.
This topic is complex, and too big for one blog post. Here are two good references with more info on how to do things one handed:  Wiley Library; Stroke.org.au.
So back to the issue of how to do things when both sides have problems.  This takes some individual assessment and problem solving. I have issues with my left hand and my right upper back.  As long as I don't have to grip anything in my left hand, I can use my left arm to hold or carry things.  I can use my right hand, as long as I don't have to do anything sustained with my arm unsupported.  Most tasks can be done with some combination of these limitations.  For tasks that can't be done, there are always the assertive skills of asking for help or delegating. Some tasks can be postponed or just skipped.  My three questions for determining this are: 1.  Does it have to be done?  2. Does it have to be done by me?  3.  Does it have to be done now? 
Most activities can be resolved using the ideas above.  I am still working on how I will wash my hair without getting my left hand wet or keeping my right hand raised above my head.  

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