Peace at Hand's Healing Blog

Wrist Splints and How Not to Use Them

Posted on February 17, 2010 in: Advice - Tags: RSI, treatment

One of the really interesting things about massage is how client types seem to come in waves.  If I see one runner with piriformis issues, three more will probably follow.  Lately, the issue has been repetitive stress injuries of the wrist caused by overuse of the computer, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

The most common treatment I hear about is splinting the wrist.  Sleeping in a wrist splint is absolutely a good treatment for RSIs. 

Typing in a wrist splint is not. 

Let me repeat that: Please do not wear your wrist splint while you are typing on your computer.

I hear of people doing that all the time, and what really floors me is that they claim to be following their doctor's advice.

Maybe doctors really are advising patients to type in wrist splints.  On the surface, if you are looking at the wrist in isolation, I suppose it might seem like a good idea.  But--stop for a second and remember that song about how the wrist bone's connected to the arm bone and consider what has to happen if we force the wrist in to a fixed position and then continue typing.  Other muscle groups (or other parts of the same muscle groups) are brought in to play, doing work that they weren't designed to do.  Its like using a screwdriver as a hammer.  It can be done, but its a really good way to break your screwdriver.  I promise you that if you type in wrist splints for hours a day for a few days running, you are going to hurt in places that feel totally unfamiliar to you. 

And my question is why.  Why should we develop a treatment plan for one issue that is only going to create new issues in other places?  It doesn't make sense.

The real treatment for a RSI is to stop doing the thing that caused the injury in the first place.  I realize our society isn't built in a way that often allows us to stop working, even when our health is at stake, so if you aren't going to stop typing (or doing whatever it is that caused the problem), at least minimize it.  If the problem is on your right side, look at tasks that you can begin doing with your left.  Brushing your teeth.  Holding the phone.  Carrying your coffee cup.  You would be surprised by how much strain you can relieve just by moving small but frequent tasks to your "good side."

Keep the splints, but wear them around the house when you aren't using your hands, and absolutely sleep in them.  Sleeping in them is key.  If you need to type or carry on with those fine motor tasks, look for soft braces.  Something that will give you a little compression and support without having a solid splint built in to them.  A quick trip to CVS should be able to supply you with what you need, and once you're looking at the options, the two types of braces will be obvious.

If you are one of those people who is under doctor's orders to type in splints...well, I would never tell a client to ignore something that their doctor told them to do.  What I suggest is this: Call your doctor.  Explain to them why the splints might be bad, and ask what they think.  Do a little research, and then do what feels right to you.

But mostly?  Don't type in a wrist splint.