Carpal Tunnel Sucks
I’ll spare you the diagnostic language; I’m here to tell you what Google won’t. Suffice it to say that carpal tunnel syndrome’s two most frequent symptoms are a challenge when it comes to sex: pain or numbness in the affected hand and stiffness or loss of mobility in the fingers. You can see how this is incredibly frustrating in everything from masturbation to fisting, and the more time we all spend typing away at ergonomically-incorrect desk setups, the more you’re likely to run into this in yourself or those you’re bedding. You already know all the standard advice: get hip to ergonomics, spend less time at a keyboard, try to do less repetitive motion...but let’s be honest, your hand is doing plenty of repetitive motion on date night and you don’t exactly want to curtail those activities, so here are some ways to work around the problem.
Re-Examine The Same Old Thing
I’ll tell you a very sad, very personal tale: I once enjoyed pretty epic masturbation sessions before CTS. As far as I can tell, I’m in the minority when it comes to my masturbation habits; I’m a female-bodied person who prefers only using my hand. What this means, though, is a pretty lengthy period of time spent making fast, repetitive motions with my dominant hand (even longer if the porn has to buffer...damn technology). The first time I woke up the next morning with a shooting pain in my wrist and the realization that I had a masturbation injury, I will admit to feeling a certain amount of desperation. I mean, I’m a pornographer and a sex columnist and an all-around horndog. How could I go on with the knowledge that I could injure myself jerking off?
After I had a bitch session about it, I started that peculiar mixture of bargaining and decreasing unhealthy habits that most sufferers of CTS have gone through at one point or another. Where I once gave up certain kinds of needlework because they aggravated my wrist, I now gave up certain masturbation habits. While it’s no fun to remind myself of my limitations when I finally find a hot and heavy video, it’s better than having to wear my brace for a week (which means no masturbation whatsoever, by the way). Now, I’ve trained myself to wait a little longer than usual to touch myself, which turns out to be kind of fun, and I’m careful to change the position of my hand frequently. Believe it or not, I’ve actually learned a few new tricks about what I like this way. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that jazz.
Reconsider the ToychestIf you’re playing with anything remotely artificial, you have lots of options when it comes to minimizing the problems CTS causes. There are plenty of dildos and vibrators on the market which have extra-long or extra-curved handles, both of which can be a godsend for sufferers whether we’re talking about using these on your own body or someone else’s. Take care with vibrators, though; I’ve found that sometimes the ones that convey heavy vibration through the handles upset my CTS more than they help.
If you use restraints at all, you may want to consider adding some CTS-friendly cuffs to your toy chest. What “CTS-friendly” is depends on exactly what kind of CTS you (or your partner) suffer from and what sort of restraint user you are. For me, as the type who likes to pull a lot, a pair of simple cuffs that offer a palm grip have changed my life significantly. The ability to grip, thus transferring most of the tension into my palm, makes a huge difference compared to plain wrist cuffs that transmit all the tension directly into the wrist bone. Your mileage may vary — try to pick up inexpensive versions to test-drive, or, if you can stand it, go shopping somewhere that allows hands-on testing while you’re recovering from a flare-up. It’ll be painfully obvious what works and what doesn’t.
I Hate To Say It, But...
Sometimes, the best thing for CTS is the stuff your doctor tells you to do: regularly scheduled stretches throughout the day, proper typing/repetitive-movement ergonomics, | Hitachi Magic Wand]and use of a brace during a flare-up. While I find myself resistant to doing this kind of basic, annoying treatment, sometimes it helps to remember that it makes a direct impact on your sex life. There are many videos available on YouTube, which illustrate stretches that can help (I find the ones for drummers especially useful).
As always, take it easy and don’t push beyond what feels good unless you’re under a doctor’s care, but easy stretching and ergonomic retooling of workstations are unlikely to cause you problems. When I had my first twinge of CTS, I immediately changed my day job desk’s arrangement and experienced a complete remission for almost two years! You can get a lot out of this kind of mundane stuff sometimes.
Because CTS is somewhat individual, be aware of odd things that help, too. My first flare-up scared me so much that I sold all of my knitting supplies, for example, but years later, I found that keeping my muscles “warmed up” by knitting — if I was careful about how I did it, and didn’t overdo it — actually helped in the long run. Sometimes just keeping my wrists warm and gently supported with fingerless gloves during large typing tasks can make a huge difference. Encouraging a sex partner to massage your hands before a big date can be immensely positive in all kinds of directions as well...
It Sucks, But It’s Not The End Of The World
While it’s never a picnic to realize we have limitations on our sex lives, CTS can and should be worked around to keep your sex life top-notch. While our hands are convenient sex toys, they aren’t the last word. If exercises and ergonomics fail you, ingenuity can go a long way toward making sure your sex life doesn’t suffer too much. As with so many things, an open mind and a curious disposition can get you into all sorts of wonderful trouble!