August 8 – National Happiness Happens Day! (Can Happiness Help People Heal?)

August 8 – National Happiness Happens Day! (Can Happiness Help People Heal?)

August 8th – National Happiness Happens Day.

…which got me to thinking about the impact of happiness on healing.  As a clinician, I’ve anecdotally seen the correlation between a positive attitude and better injury recovery.  Conversely, those who do not believe they will heal well, or who are dealing with many life stressors, do not seem to as recover well or seem to experience more chronic pain.  So, on National Happiness Happens Day, I decided to perform a quick search to see if science supports the premise that happier people heal better.

Although I only performed a quick internet survey, the evidence appears to be overwhelming.  A positive attitude helps people cope better with stress and trauma, improves the immune system effect, and lowers pain levels.  On the other hand, stress releases hormones which impede immune system function.

So, today, on National Happiness Happens Day, take a few moments to celebrate the good in your life, listen to some happy music, spend extra time with a loved one, watch a YouTube clip of a late night TV comedian.  Seeking moments of happiness will now only create a positive impact on those around you, but will likely have a positive impact on your health.

Wishing you happiness and good health,



Ergonomics: Not Just for Adults

Ergonomics: Not Just for Adults

Parents help ease the transition from summer fun to school routine.  Just as important (but perhaps not quite as much fun) as shopping for the right back-to-school fashion, parents can encourage positive health and ergonomic practices that reduce their children’s risk for developing repetitive strain injuries.

Several years ago, a youngster was referred to our hand therapy clinic with classic and debilitating symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).  However, the physician, a generalist, was adamant that this young person did not have CTS as “16 year-olds do not develop these types of injuries”.  This patient’s parents sought a second opinion.  The patient was officially diagnosed with CTS upon physical examination with an orthopedic hand surgeon and nerve conduction examination, subsequently underwent surgical decompression of the nerve, and had a very successful recovery.

It is true that we don’t see many pre-teens and teenagers with symptoms of repetitive stress injury.   The flexibility and rapid healing rate of children allow them to get away with much more than adults when it comes to the repetitive and forceful nature and awkward postures of physical activity that create symptoms.

Unfortunately, the increasing role of technology in our lives, across all age groups, can not be ignored.  And formal classes in typing technique, posture and ergonomics are no longer offered in school as children begin using technology in their toddler years rather than learning to type in high school.  It is important for adults to be aware of the risk factors and to teach good ergonomic principles and work practices to our children in order to help keep the next generation pain-free.

Kids, Computers & Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs)

  • In a series of international studies, up to 60% of students across the globe reported eye-strain, neck & shoulder pain, wrist and back discomfort, headaches and fatigue. Symptoms were reported in children as young as in 4th grade.Repetitive strain injuries in children are highly correlated with the repetitive, awkward and prolonged postures they are using when they are working on computers or laptops.
  • Most computer stations are designed for adults or lack the adjustability needed for children who display a wide range of body sizes and body growth rates.
  • The portability of technology (e.g. laptop computers, video game players, mobile phones, iPads) allow for use in non-traditional settings and with non-traditional postures (for example, slouched in a couch or lying on a floor) that can increase the risk of injury.

General Guidelines to Promote Healthy Computing

  • Provide children the skills to understand what is good for their bodies so they can make good choices for themselves.
  • Teach healthy computer habits which can be carried into adulthood.
  • Encourage physical activity. Children who exercised during breaks from computer use had fewer pain complaints then those who were sedentary.
  • Encourage healthy habits including drinking plenty of water for tissue hydration and eating a variety of nutritious foods.

Computer Comfort & Ergonomics for Children

  • Chairs should be adjustable allowing for easy changes for growing children or for various family members of different ages and sizes.
  • The best chairs should have adjustability for chair seat height and depth. The back of the chair (providing lumbar support) should be able to be pushed forward. If the chair is not adjustable, use pillows or cushions to raise the child to the appropriate height or to support the back.
  • Position the child so that the eyes are level with the top of the monitor screen. The monitor should be placed directly in front of the child at about an arm’s distance away (about 12-14 inches) to prevent eye and neck strain.
  • Shorter legs should be supported on a footrest, sturdy box, or stack of stable books with hips, knees and ankles at about 90 degrees. There should be about 2 inches of clearance between the back of the child’s knee and the chair seat edge.
  • Increase type font on the monitor so that it is clearly visible to the child so they don’t have to squint or lean forward to read the screen. The screen should be clean and the brightness and contrast adjusted for easiest reading.
  • Reduce screen glare by placing the computer perpendicular to windows, having good room and task lighting, and, if necessary, using an anti-glare screen.
  • Teach your child to look away from the screen after every 15 minutes or so of typing to ease eye-strain.
  • Lower or remove chair arm rests so that child’s arms are loosely held at the side of the body, elbows bent at about 90 degrees, and the shoulders relaxed.
  • Place the keyboard and mouse within easy reach of the child so they do not have to stretch the arms out to use them.
  • Wrists should be flat and straight (in the neutral position) with fingers relaxed.
  • Teach the child to use the lightest touch possible on the keyboard.
  • Encourage the child to sit upright and not to twist, slouch or crouch in the chair while typing.
  • Encourage a typing break of 5-10 minutes for every 30-40 minutes of typing. Preferably the break activity should be active. A timer can be used to help the child learn to monitor himself.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ABCs

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ABCs

A quick overview of carpal tunnel syndrome.

A – Anatomy

The carpal tunnel is s small canal, about the circumference of the index finger, located at the wrist. The tunnel receives its name from the eight small wrist bones, the carpal bones, which form its shallow u-shaped floor. The roof of the tunnel is the transverse carpal ligament that attaches from one end of the “u” to the other. The nine finger tendons that bend the finger joints and the thumb tip pass through the tunnel along with the median nerve.

B – Braces

Wrist braces can be used to position the wrist in the neutral position. The wrist should be flat (not bent forward or back) and straight (the middle flinger in line with the long forearm bones so that the wrist is not angled to one side or the other). For every 15 degrees that the wrist is bent forward or back, the pressure on the median nerve increases. Braces should not be worn all the time or you risk making joints tight and muscles weak. Weak muscles are at risk for greater damage. Braces should be worn at night for positioning and for short periods during the day for aggravating activities. If the injury is acute and very painful, your medical practitioner may advise you to wear braces continuously for a brief period of time (usually about two weeks or so).

C – Compression

With overuse, repetitive activity, or awkward positioning, the nine tendons in the carpal tunnel or their sheaths may become inflamed or the transverse carpal ligament may thicken. This compresses the median nerve in the narrow area of the carpal tunnel. The nerves are responsible for power to the muscles and for sensation to an area of skin. If the nerve is compressed, numbness and muscle atrophy can occur. The median nerve in the carpal tunnel is responsible for sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger. It provides power to the thick wad of muscle tissue (the thenars) at the base of the thumb. These muscles are responsible for fine motor control and positioning of the thumb.

D – Decompression

The carpal tunnel release surgery opens up the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel and decompresses the nerve. When the roof of the tunnel is opened, the nerve has between 20-40% more breathing room. With less pressure, the nerve can begin to heal from compression damage and is better able to tolerate aggravating activities.

E – Exercises

An exercise program of tendon and nerve glides can be helpful in reducing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.

F – Fitness

Performing 15-20 minutes of light cardiovascular activity daily can increase oxygen and blood flow out to the hands and help promote healing of injured tissues. A fit body works and heals better than an unhealthy body.

G – Genetics

Studies are now showing that there is a genetic predisposition to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. For those who may be prone to developing such injuries, taking prevention measures is critical. Seek out information on ergonomics, exercise regularly, and practice a healthy life-style to reduce your risk.

H – Hot Packs

Heat increases blood flow. Using hot packs can increase flexibility of stiff joints and reduce aching. It may also increase acute inflammation. Do not use heat on new injuries or inflamed areas. For chronic pain without swelling, it may be helpful. Be careful of burning tissues, especially if sensation is impaired.

I – Ice Packs

Cold reduces blood flow. Ice packs can reduce acute swelling and reduce aching. However, joints will temporarily feel stiffer after using cold packs. Wait until the tissues warm up (20-30 minutes) before using the hands intensely after cold pack application. Be careful of causing an ice burn, especially if sensation is impaired.

J – Job Rotation

Repetitive activity can cause swelling in the finger tendons and place pressure on the median nerve. By rotating through a variety of different activities during the workday, you can reduce potentially damaging repetitive activity.

K – Kick the Habit

Cigarette smoking depletes the tissues of oxygen and delays healing of damaged tissues. Within 2 weeks to 3 months of quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases up to 30% allowing the body to heal damaged tissues more effectively.

L – Laptops

The portability and compact size of laptop computers offer many benefits. However, because the screen and monitor are connected, it is difficult to position the laptop in a good ergonomic position. When positioned ideally for wrist and elbow comfort, the neck is bent forward. When the neck is good alignment, the keyboard is too high for the arms. Change the laptop surface height occasionally to vary position and stretch frequently. Or purchase an external keyboard for your laptop.

M – The Mouse

Position the mouse at the same level of the keyboard and in as close as possible to the keyboard so you are not reaching forward or to the side when using it. Move the mouse by initiating movement through the shoulder and not the wrist. Do not rest the wrists on the table during mouse or keyboard activity. The wrists should glide over the desktop.

N – Numbness

Sensation changes, such as tingling or numbness, are classical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Numbness is often felt at night because of sleeping position. Many people sleep with their wrists and elbows bent in the fetal position. Using wrists braces to keep the wrists neutral may help alleviate symptoms.

O – Obesity

Obesity is now being linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. Those who are overweight may be more than twice as likely to develop symptoms.

P – Prevention

Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome requires a comprehensive approach in three areas – ergonomic interventions, general and specific exercise programs, and healthy life-style practices.


The QWERTY keyboard design was actually developed to slow down typists who typed so quickly that they tangled the keys on old-style typewriters. With the QWERTY keyboard design, commonly used keys and letters are actually being manipulated by the weakest fingers. Using both hands to perform 2-key functions and using hot keys, macros and “sticky” keys can help to reduce the stress on the hand by eliminating keystrokes.

R – Repetitive Strain Injury

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a specific type of injury (nerve compression) in the general category of repetitive strain injuries. A repetitive strain injury is one that develops from the micro-trauma of daily use (from repetition, awkward position, and stressful use) versus a traumatic injury.

S – Strengthening

Many people with carpal tunnel syndrome report weakness in the hands. Squeezing putty, tennis balls, foam balls or hand grippers can actually increase symptoms. These are the muscles you have been using all day and they may already be inflamed and painful. Instead, place a rubberband around the finger tips and open the fingers against the light resistance. This strengthens the opposite muscles and helps establish muscular balance.

T – Tests

Several common medical tests can help your physician diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. The tinel’s test is positive when tapping on the median nerve over the wrist causes an electrical shock or tingling sensation. The phalen’s test is positive when holding the wrist in a bent position for one minute reproduces sensations of numbness or tingling in the fingers. A nerve conduction velocity examination tests the speed of the nerve impulse from one point to another. An impulse that travels more slowly than normal is likely to be traveling through a blocked area – or nerve compression site.

U – Ultrasound

Ultrasound is one of many therapeutic techniques used to improve circulation and decrease pain. Other techniques that may be used by a physical or occupational therapist include use of heat and cold, use of electrical stimulation, cold laser, instruction in exercises and stretches, education in ergonomics, and massage techniques.

V – Vitamins

Some studies show that taking vitamin B6 is helpful for reducing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The B-vitamins play an important role in nervous system function and can help prevent muscle cramps. Taking a B-complex vitamin daily may help to alleviate symptoms.

W – Water

Appropriate water intake of 6-8 glasses a day is important for hydration of the muscle tissues. Muscle function may decrease 20-30 percent when the tissues are dehydrated. Drinking water helps the body flush out toxins, protects joints and muscles, and reduces muscle cramping and fatigue.

X – X-rays

X-rays show bony structure. They do not provide a picture of the soft tissues such as the tendons and the nerves. The doctor will perform other tests to determine if carpal tunnel syndrome is the diagnosis. An X-ray may be taken to rule out fracture or arthritis as the cause of symptoms versus repetitive micro trauma.

Y – Yoga

Some of the many benefits of performing yoga include increasing relaxation and reducing stress, increasing oxygen levels to the body through specific breathing patterns, stretching muscles and increasing flexibility of the joint, and toning muscles. Seek a qualified instructor who has some experience with injuries and can modify potentially irritating or stressful postures.

Z – Zzzzzz’s

A good night’s rest is important to allow damage to heal. Nighttime is when the body is able to repair the damage of micro-trauma.

A Parody of Holiday Decorating – with Safety Tips

A Parody of Holiday Decorating – with Safety Tips

Twas the week before Christmas
And all through the town
Holiday decorations were popping
up all around

Lights to be hung!
Tinsel galore!
All those boxes from storage
I stacked on the floor

To the desk chair I flew
Must have been such a sight
As I scrambled on top
To hang those bright lights

As I stood on my tiptoes
Oh! That rolling desk chair
It slipped! and I flew!
Should have been more aware

And as I was falling
And landing (real hard)
I spied another option
Outside in the yard

And so out I ran
Forgot all that clutter
And tripped in my hurry…
Such words did I mutter!

Got untangled from tinsel
Just to stumble and sprawl
Into those ornament boxes
Out of which I slowly crawled

Gradually worked my way over
Closer to the shed
But the pathway was blocked!
and I had nowhere to tread

Pushed and pulled all those boxes
Out of the way
Ouch…Twisted my back!
“Lumbar Sprain” Doc would say

But then what to my wondering
Eyes finally appeared
A ladder with safety labels
(Which I promptly ignored..having no fear)

The spirits had cheered me
And tasted ever so good
I was feeling kind of tipsy
Certainly not being as safe as I should

So, I climbed to the tip
To the very top rung
Carrying those decorations up the ladder
That needed to be hung

And finally, just had one
final bling to be placed
Thought I could..reach….the……top
This job would be aced!

But I reached too far over
And fell off the ladder
And on the way down
Made such a clatter

The neighbors all ran
To see the damage I had done
And as the ambulance drove off
I missed the cookie party fun.

Injury statistics are reported
And now I am one
Unfortunately for me
The joyful season is done

In my sad story
A lesson can be learned
Benefit from my mistakes
And healthy redemption be earned

This holiday time
Be safe when you decorate
And use common sense
Or share the same fate

Be careful this season
Follow those safety rules
Have Happy Holidays
And choose the right tools!

Be safe!… I proclaim
When decorating at heights
Remember ergonomics and
Have a healthy Christmas night!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8,700 people were treated in emergency departments in 2002 specifically for decoration-related ladder injuries. Don’t become a statistic this year. Follow these tips for a healthy and happy holiday season.

As you hang lights and decorations, use a step-stool rather than furniture for items that are slightly out of reach. Never stand on any furniture that is not stable. Make sure that the stool is locked into the open position. For higher tasks, use a ladder that is in good condition. For every 4 feet that the ladder reaches up, the base should be 1 foot away from the wall. Follow all height and weight restrictions that are posted on the ladder. Do not climb above the maximum height posted. The ladder top should extend 3 feet above the surface you are trying to reach. When climbing the ladder, face it directly. Keep balanced over the middle of the ladder. Do not overextend your reach. Place the legs on a solid and level surface. If the ground is soft or uneven, use a plank of wood to provide stability.

Use proper body mechanics to avoid back pain when lifting boxes. Ask for help when lifting heavier objects. Hold objects close to the body, not at arm’s length. Do not lean forward at the hips when picking up items from low surfaces; rather, squat down, hold the item close, and use the strength of your legs as you stand up to lift the item. Do not twist or turn at the waist. Your toes should always face the surface that you are lifting the object from or placing it on.

Avoid excessive clutter that can cause you to trip. Place electrical cords away from general walking pathways or tape them down. Do not overload electrical circuits. Keep walkways clear of boxes and decorations. Avoid rushing through the holidays. Perform activities requiring the most safety awareness when you are alert and relaxed.

Be safe!  Be Healthy!  Happy Holidays!

Cheers, Marji

12 Days of Ergonomic Christmas

12 Days of Ergonomic Christmas

Had some fun with this a few years back.  For all the computer users out there….Enjoy!

The Twelve Days of Christmas with an ergonomic twist…

On the first day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me
Keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the second day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the third day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Wrists should be straight,
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the seventh day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the eighth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Check your monitor placement
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the ninth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Keep shoulders from tensing
Check your monitor placement
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the tenth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Avoid repetitive typing
Keep shoulders from tensing
Check your monitor placement
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Don’t squeeze the mouse too tightly
Avoid repetitive typing
Keep shoulders from tensing
Check your monitor placement
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the ergo specialist said to me,
Use a keyboard tray
Don’t squeeze the mouse too tightly
Avoid repetitive typing
Keep shoulders from tensing
Check your monitor placement
Be careful of awkward positions
Stay pain-free while typing
Posture is the key
Heed what I say
Wrists should be straight
Use a vertical mouse
And keep those fingers relaxed on keyboard keys.

Hand Pain? Top 10 Gift Ideas

Hand Pain? Top 10 Gift Ideas

Planning on doing some shopping for the holiday season?   Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us.  Here are some shopping suggestions to help you choose the perfect gift of health for family, friends or co-workers who suffer from the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, or arthritic hand joints.  Or maybe you deserve to treat yourself??

(Please note: I have no financial interest in or reimbursement received from promoting any of the following products.  They are items that I just truly believe can be helpful.)

Split Keyboard

As computers and portable devices have become smaller so have keyboards.  This makes it more difficult to maintain a good, neutral wrist posture while typing.  Those keyboards that have the inverted “V” down the middle help align the fingers with the forearm easing tension on the sides of the wrist and preventing wrist pain and tendinitis.

ergo keyboard sktetch

A Vertical Mouse

Using a mouse that is turned onto its side places the forearm in a more neutral position and can ease mousing pain.

vertical mouse pic

A Laptop Stand with a Free-Standing Keyboard

Although the portability of laptops make them a wonderful choice for those on-the-go, inherently the design will place either stress on the arms or stress on the neck.  When at home, turn your laptop into a more ergonomically friendly desktop device by using a stand with an accessory keyboard.

laptop stand pic

A Large-Barreled Pen or Ergonomically Designed Pen

Many people write with tension.  Using a larger barreled pen such as the Dr. Grip, a felt-tip pen that writes smoothly, or an ergonomically designed pen such as the PenAgain can ease thumb pain and hand cramping.

ergo pen

Paraffin Bath

For an at-home-spa treat, a paraffin bath is not only good for relaxation but can help ease the deep ache caused by many hand injuries.  Also, heat is good for increasing the flexibility of joints, easing joint pain caused by arthritis, and enhancing the softness of a thick scar.


Therapeutic Tape

Seen on many athletes, therapeutic tape does not bind the joints for support the way athletic tape does but rather lies on the muscle belly.  The oscillating pattern of the adhesive, as well as mild stretch, lifts the surface of the skin, increases lymphatic and blood flow to the area, and relaxes the tissues around the superficial free nerve endings – providing some instant pain relief for most people!  Instructions for application are usually provided in the box.  There are also multiple online videos that show proper application.

therapy tape pic

An Electric Can-Opener

Or, for that matter, any electronic gadgets that can ease the work that the hands do….electric can-opener, electric jar opener, electric knife. Often these products can be found at discounted prices during this time of year.

electric kitchen pic.JPG

Gadgets and Gizmos

The OXO brand is a good example of a company that has designed products specifically for arthritic joints and those with hand pain.  The handles are larger and softer.  Bed, Bath and Beyond usually has a large display of the various kitchen tools. is a website with a paper catalog that offers functionally based produces.


Lazy Hands

I’m really liking this new product that provides a sure grip while easing the tension of holding larger smart phones.

lazy hands.jpg

A Good Book

Dr. Pascarelli, one of the leading experts on repetitive strain injuries, has written several easy-to-read but informative books including the Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury: What You Need to Know About RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User’s Guide


And a Few Bonus Gift Suggestions:

A Good Hot or Cold Pack

Both heat and cold can temporarily change the way that pain signals travel along the neural pathway to be recognized by the brain.  Cold is great for acute inflammation while heat can be good for more chronic pain, particularly a nervy type of pain.


Download an App or Subscribe to a Program

Head Space, Breathe 2 Relax, Desk-Yogi, Stretch Break programs – there are many free and paid apps and subscriptions that can provide guidance in relaxation techniques, meditation and mindfulness programs, deep breathing techniques and stretching programs and stretches that will help reduce muscular stress and tension.

app pic

Enjoy your Thanksgiving break.  Happy shopping!  Marji

How to host Thanksgiving Dinner with a Hand Injury

How to host Thanksgiving Dinner with a Hand Injury

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has published some good tips on avoiding a hand injury while preparing your Thanksgiving meal (; Turkey Carving Safety). But…. what if you already have hand pain from a tendinitis, or arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome, or a recent hand or wrist sprain/fracture/injury?  Anticipating a full day of hand intensive activity when you are already in pain can be intimidating and anxiety-producing. Here are some survival tips to help those with hand injuries host the big event  without increasing pain. 

  1. Ask for help. Although this seems like common sense, it is often hard for a host to request help from his or her guests.  However, most family and friends would be more than happy to lend (a literal) hand. And don’t some of the best holiday moments actually take place in the steamy, fragrant kitchen?  Generate a party atmosphere -sipping something bubbly while chatting and sneaking food tastes- all while sharing the tasks of chopping, stirring and dish washing. Enlist someone who is strong and injury-free to lift the turkey out of the oven or perform the turkey carving. When someone offers to help with the dishes, accept gracefully. 
  2. Cut corners.  Less work=less hand stress=less pain. Thanksgiving should be about enjoying time with family and friends.  However, often Thanksgiving becomes all about the food. Large quantities of food. So much food, that we are obligated to overeat.  Be creative in finding ways to minimize the amount of work you actually need to do. Would anyone really be heart-broken if there were  fewer dishes on the table (as long as Mom’s famous stuffing is front and center)? Would anyone know if you used onions that were purchased already chopped?   Or if that apple pie was made from pre-sliced apples and prepared pie dough? Or, better yet, bought at a local bakery?  How about throwing tradition out for one year and planning a potluck?  Or purchasing a packaged dinner from the grocery store?  Could you use bottled gravy?   Can the butcher pre-cut the turkey so that smaller and lighter pans can be used for cooking?  Or, if it’s a small gathering, how about purchasing a turkey breast rather than the whole beast?
  3. Preparation is key. Plan ahead so hand intensive and possibly pain producing activities can be spaced out.  Design a menu that allows you to perform some early meal preparation over the 2-3 days preceding the holiday. Include house cleaning tasks and preparation into your Thanksgiving plan as well.  Perform heavier activities early in the week and complete only 1-2 a day.  The more you can pace your activities, the less physical and emotional stress on Thanksgiving day. 
  4. Gadgetize.  Dust off those kitchen tools. Use food processors, electric can and bottle openers, even an electric knife to reduce physical stress on the hands. 
  5. Minimize.  Ease stress on the body by following some general principles of joint protection and energy conservation: use leverage rather than grip (such as those “Y” shaped bottle openers); push rather than pull; slide rather than lift (use a dish towel on the counter to slide heavier pots and pans closer to the stove so you don’t have as far to carry them); use comfortably bigger and cushioned handles (the Oxo kitchen tool line is a good example). 
  6. Be practically festive.  Bring in some holiday cheer with a themed paper tablecloth and napkins (less laundry) and sturdy, decorative paper plates and paper or plastic glasses and stemware (fewer dishes). 
  7. Take time to care for yourself.  If, in spite of all your preparation and planning, your hands are more painful or swollen by the end of the day, sit for a few minutes, put your feet up and apply a cold pack.   Perform only the most necessary clean up. And aim to have a relaxing day the following day. Intending on carrying a bunch of shopping bags on Black Friday?….although fun, perhaps not the best timing for the hands.  

Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy Thanksgiving. 

Best, Marji