Wednesday, July 25, 2007

COLUMN: Carpal Tunnel

...otherwise known as the column which will hopefully put a coda onto the seemingly ne'er-ending saga of Shane vs. Guitar Hero.

Regular readers of this nook already know that my life has been uncontrollably revolving around the insipid video game that finally answers the age-old question: "What would Eric Clapton look like if his guitar was tiny, plastic, and adorned with rainbow colored buttons instead of strings?"

(Answer: He would look like a dork. A big, big dork.)

Two weeks ago, I discussed begrudgingly buying Guitar Hero II and watching helplessly as my already-meager social life ground to a complete halt in favor of heavy metal licks and wicked button-pushing solos. Last week, I mentioned how I rocked out SO hard to the game that I, umm, broke it and had to get another copy. Well, now it's week 3, and for a little change of pace, I didn't break the game... the game broke ME.

It happened the other night. I, like many a guitar great before me, was sitting in front of my X-Box trying to perfect the same song over and over again. "Yo, dude," said the sane portion of my brain after some time (and my brain calls me 'dude' a lot, we're close like that,) "put the game down and go to bed."

I shut off the X-Box and noticed something funny: the X-Box was definitely OFF... but my hand didn't feel itself pressing against the power button. In fact, my right hand wasn't feeling much of anything. It was perfectly numb. No pins, no needles, just... nothing, other than a mild tingly sensation running up my wrist.

"That's odd, dude," said my brain.

Happily, all was well the next morning and I chalked it up to a little over-zealous Guitar Hero-ing. Until, that is, I got in the shower and reached with my right hand to turn the faucet on. That's when a white hot pain erupted from my wrist and shot up my arm directly into my brain. The neighbors are still probably wondering what caused the quiet kid in B5 to yell "Nyyyyyyyah!" in the shower that morning.

It didn't stop there. Turning the steering wheel on the way to work? Nyyyah! Trying to right-click my mouse? Nyyyah! Taking out the trash? Oh, who am I kidding, I never take out my trash (but now I have an excuse not to!)

That's right, it appears as if Guitar Hero was the official catalyst to send me into the realm of early carpal tunnel. Frankly, it wasn't much of a surprise. I spend a good portion of my day non-ergonomically tied to a computer, I type using only my index fingers and a thumb, and I'm one of those lefties who holds their pens in the dreaded 'hooked' position, so I've been a candidate for carpal tunnel for some time. Just wasn't expecting it so soon.

At least I think it's carpal tunnel. I won't see a doctor until I've exhausted the catalog of home remedies first (spare me the lectures, it's how I operate.) Which means I just went out to the drugstore and bought one of those super sexy wrist braces.

Which is great, because it's SUCH the fashion statement. Yes, nothing says style like walking around as though I'm perpetually late for bowling league. And as if looking like a bowler isn't bad enough, the brace also begs the question from friends, co-workers, and passersby alike:

"What'd you do to yerself?"

What do I say to that? Certainly not the truth. "I'm a 36-year-old suffering from possible carpal tunnel and mild nerve damage from BANGING ON A FAKE PLASTIC GUITAR VIDEO GAME." No, thanks. Hence I've decided to use my injury to better my improvisational acting skills. Anytime someone asks what I did to myself, I make up a new scenario. To date, I've fought an angry dog, stopped a runaway car, rumbled with a mugger... basically anything to crack a co-worker up and slyly avoid confessing to over-playing a video game.

But the other day, I was walking around at work when a co-worker, one I don't know very well, spotted the brace and asked, "What'd you do to yerself?"

Without hesitation, I replied, "Ultimate fighting. Rough night in the ring."

I expected her to laugh. I expected a funny diversion to the sad truth. What I didn't expect was:

"Ooh, I've heard those can be very rough matches! Who were you fighting?"

Seriously? Okay, stop reading and look up at the picture of me at the top of this column. Look at my dainty little sissy face. Now imagine that face in ANY kind of ultimate fighting scenario. Can't do it, can you? Good, coz neither can I. The closest I ever came to a fight was when Robbie Downard pushed me on the sidewalk in 3rd grade, and before I could even react, my mommy, who had seen the rumble in full swing, came screaming to my aid.

But to actually BELIEVE that I was capable of stepping into an ultimate fighting ring? For THAT, she was the only person I fessed up the embarassing truth to. The good news is that the brace is helping a LOT, and I'm 90% to a full recovery. Until then, though, I think I'll go looking for some bowling shirts - I need to blend in.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god, this happened to me. I got Guitar Hero on Boxing Day and started playing it - a LOT. A week or so later, I noticed that my hand was always falling asleep and being numb. I was really afraid at first, until I realized the connection between it and Guitar Hero. So I've decided to put the guitar down for a while until it heals. How long ago was this written? Did it go away? Is it life-threatening?! And - most important of all - CAN YOU STILL PLAY GUITAR HERO?!

Anonymous said...

Its real.. be careful with gh. I now have it in both wrists. Just got cortisone shots in both of em. I've played real guitar and used computer for 20 years and never one hint of trouble. GH will take you there fast! and for some there will be next to no warning signs before your entire hand swells. i suspect Hard & Expert mode are more likely to cause it. DR says it will probably go away, but it is a bad injury no joke. I almost wish I had a bad sprain instead. Don't expect fast recovery...

atomickitty210 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this;
the concept of hurting oneself through virtual shredding was a little too much for me to believe possible...
But alas;
It is true!

The tingling/pains have just started in my left hand.
I guess I shouldn't play and observe the symptoms...*sigh*

Anonymous said...

This is a follow up to my comment posted quite some time ago about getting shots in both wrists.

I'm not sure the cortisone shots *actually* did anything. I was supposed to have relief within the first 72 hours but it didn't happen. After laying off the game and typing and using a mouse left handed at work for a few weeks it finally gave way and started to heal. I went to physical therapy and they said I had only 60% grip strength of a normal wrist. However... It quickly returned. One week later and it was all the way back to 95%. If this happens to you don't lose hope, it is heal-able with time. I think it needs to run its course though and there are no shortcuts.

I still play GH on guitar sometimes now, but only with friends so that I don't get addicted again. I've recently bought the drums... Its my belief that you are less likely to get an RSI injury from them because they are a more natural movement (i.e. you are not pressing some cheap plastic switch back and forth in the same spot every time)