I shoulda broke YOUR thumbs!
— Rocky Balboa
… and I didn’t even owe it money.
The really weird thing about this is the way I can pinpoint it in time.
When I went to bed on the night of Aug. 16, I was fine. No pain; everything functioning normally. No foreshadowing at all. Then, sometime during the night, I woke up, and as I got up out of the bed to head for the bathroom, I said “Ow.” Both joints in both thumbs hurt like crazy, and doing the most normal things — such as pushing myself up out of the bed, or even something as nonstrenuous as pinching the bridge of my nose with thumb and forefinger to rub the sleep out — caused the thumb involved to pop out of joint, quite painfully. And popping it back in was no picnic, either.
And even when I wasn’t trying to use them, the joints were painfully tender to the slightest touch. And if I did try to use them — which is pretty unavoidable; our species has pretty much built its daily activities around having opposable thumbs — to use them normally required forcing the joints past points at which they want to stop, and that forcing leads to a pop (which I think is actual dislocation), and pain. Both in the ball of the hand, and the other joint closer to the end of the digit.
I had always been double-jointed to the point that my thumbs naturally bent back, on their own, 90 degrees. No more. Now, once they hit the point where they are straight, they stop, and the slightest backward pressure on them hurts.
And it’s been like this ever since that day. This is really having an impact on my life.
There was no trauma that I can recall.
I don’t think I’ve contracted any bizarre illness that attacks the joints — at least, there are no other symptoms. All the other joints are fine — except for my knee that acts up sometimes, but that long predated this.
I haven’t taken in any exotic toxins that I know of. I remember reading once of an incident involving Allied prisoners in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines. Once they were fed a dinner of rancid fish heads, and moments after the meal, suddenly all the prisoners’ heads flopped over because they had completely lost the use of their neck muscles. After a few hours, the effect wore off. Then the next night, more fish heads, and the men’s heads flopped over again. This really freaked out the guards.
But I hadn’t eaten any rancid fish heads.
At first, I thought it was the constant typing on the laptop, and I didn’t know what I was going to do about that — both for ADCO and the blog, it’s pretty unavoidable.
Then, I finally realized: It was the Blackberry. It was the fact that I increasingly answer e-mails on it, and work with photos on it, and send text messages, approve blog comments, and… constantly, constantly, keep up with Twitter. I Tweet, I reTweet, I click on links to see what they’re about. I do it anytime I’m sitting still and not actually writing or talking or driving. Sit me down and shut me up, and I dive into Twitter.
It’s called “Blackberry Thumb.” Some of my iPhone-loving friends have told me that it’s because I use the wrong device, but they think the iPhone is the cure to every ill known to Man.
So I’m thinking that’s it. But I’ve tried cutting back, to no avail. As for cold turkey — I’m not even sure it’s possible to do that and keep up with ADCO and family responsibilities. Sure, I can avoid Googling everything in the world that I’m curious about in the course of a day, and confine Twitter activity to the laptop. But there’s a limit. There’s a good reason I pay for this data service every month.
Since I live in the good ol’ USA, it would be prohibitively expensive with my current insurance to go on a quest through various specialists in search of a cure, so I’d really like to figure this out and cure it myself. I’ve acquired a couple of braces for immobilizing my thumbs to sleep in at least, and that keeps them from waking me up from the pain of normal movements during the night — but causes them to be even stiffer in the morning.
The biggest mystery, to me, and the one thing that makes me doubt the Twitter diagnosis? That it came on, full-blown, so suddenly. Seems to me that a repetitive-motion thing would be more gradual than that. But maybe not. My goal is just to make it go away just as suddenly, and for good…