About 7 months ago, I took my first professional art position, doing graphic design and illustration for a healthcare non-profit, and so, for the first time, I was doing art all through the day AND, very often, at night too. And I started getting forearm, wrist, and hand pain, and not just in my dominant, drawing hand, but in my left one too (the one that is constantly pressing Cmd+C, Cmd+V, Cmd+A, etc., and hovering over the keyboard ready to strike the appropriate buttons at any time, in tandem with my drawing hand, so as to increase my speed of illustrating/designing to the maximum). But, I’m only 24! and getting pain in my hands this young and having seen my mom struggle with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Trigger Finger for years and losing the ability to do the hobbies she once loved made me realize the importance of taking care of them.
I’m going to be depending on my hands for my work and happiness for the rest of my life! I should make their health a priority.
So, this is a reminder to please be mindful of your hands (and general posture) while doing art (or, actually, any repetitive and stationary position). If you can’t catch yourself while you’re working to notice how you’re holding your hands most of the time, ask a friend or coworker to pay attention to your posture and hand/wrist positioning while you’re “in the moment.” Then,correct the behavior! A few helpful tips I’ve tried to incorporate into my workflow (some more successfully than others, but eh) are:
- Take breaks - Grab some coffee/fruit/whatever, stare out a window, just take a break from your work! In addition to helping your body readjust, it will reset your attention, so that when you look back at your work, you will notice mistakes you couldn’t see before.
- Move more - Stand up, move around, stretch out and roll your neck, shoulders, back, forearms and wrists and give your hands and fingers a gentle massage.
- Just exercise - Keeping your body in shape will translate to a higher energy level, naturally making you want to move around more (see above) and it will also keep your posture in check. If your back and shoulders are naturally positioning themselves better while you work, you’ll be less likely to be stooped down and leaning on your forearms, wrists and hands!
- Use a stress ball - Keep this on your desk and if your hands are idle while you take a moment to just gaze at your piece (with a mixture of love and frustration), take out those emotions on that ball. Trust me, it can handle it. It was made for that.
- Keep your wrists neutral - The computer age has given us the unnatural and bad habit of holding our wrists or, worse, resting them, at an angle for extended periods of time. This pinches the delicate nerves that run through the carpal tunnel in the wrist and will cause serious neural damage and, consequently, pain! Females are especially vulnerable to developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because they have a narrower wrist, so less protection to the nerves, than males. Pay attention to how you hold your wrists while typing, hovering over the keyboard, etc. and try to correct your position to neutral.