Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Flag Park 3 – Graphite and Colored Pencil

Managing carpal tunnel syndrome is a necessary part of life for many artists, but as Jana Botkin explains, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

You may remember Jana’s first post a few weeks ago in which she described her life as an artist with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Jana is back today to describe her methods of balancing carpal tunnel and art. As you’ll soon see, one doesn’t automatically mean the end of the other.

Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

by Jana Botkin

I made the decision to back off colored pencils, partly to avoid Carpal Tunnel. It was also an economic decision, but that’s another story for a different blog post.

Flag Hillcrest 2 – Graphite and Colored Pencil

In 1997, I began working on a book, full of pencil illustrations. In an effort to strengthen my hands, I started using some exercise gripper devices. I also went to my doctor to ask his advice. When I showed him the grippers, he made a face and said, “Lose those things right now!”

Say what?? I thought it was good to exercise and strengthen my grip, but Doc said it would just aggravate the problem. He also told me to avoid surgery because he knew I would return to all the activities that caused the problem. This was before either one of us knew of my propensity to scar.

Doc advised the use of anti-inflammatories, but I am wary of pills. I was also severely warned off anti-inflammatory medicine by an acupuncturist friend, who practically got apoplectic about the topic. (She cussed with tremendous intensity, so I won’t tell you what she actually said.)

Four Tips

The advice that I chose to follow was in four parts.

  1. Wear a splint at night
  2. Do as much as possible with my non-dominant hand—knit, use a mouse, and sometimes even eat left-handed)
  3. Take breaks when drawing.
  4. Use pencil extenders. I noticed that things got worse when I used my cheap-o method of keeping a pencil until it was too small to fit in the sharpener any more.
Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Southfork Lanterns – Graphite and Colored Pencil

I made it through that book without any trouble, went on to do another book with 3 times as many drawings, and I still draw without major flare-ups. I was just dying to put color on every flag in the book, but that would have made the cost per book astronomical. (Remember, I live in a poor rural county in the middle of California’s flyover Central Valley, where an enormous amount of food and fiber is produced).

So, only the cover of the book has a touch of color. But, after the book was printed, I returned to the drawings with flags and added color.

Backing away from colored pencils was also an economic decision, but that is another story for another blog post.

Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Many thanks to Jana for a great article.

The second book Jana mentioned is The Cabins of Wilsonia Park, and is available through her website. The first book is out of print, but may be available through eBay.

About Jana Botkin

Jana credits her 6th grade teacher at Ivanhoe Elementary School with teaching her to draw. She spent several years in college in San Diego, changing schools and changing majors, until she realized she belonged back in her native Tulare County. After drawing her future husband’s cabin, he told her that other cabin owners would also love drawings of their cabins. That was the beginning of Cabin Art. Now she also paints in oils, paints indoor and outdoor murals, and teaches people how to draw, with hundreds of happy students since 1994. Jana works from her studio at home in Three Rivers, with her 3 cats stopping by for occasional visits. You see her work and browse her lessons on her website and read more of her articles on her blog.

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