Ruminations on a repetitive movement injury

I am in the midst of sorting new soft-cover children’s books for the 340 or so students who will receive five each before they leave school for the summer. Each book we give is stamped with the words, “This book is a gift from” the church’s name and address. So I have been carefully stamping at least 1700 (it is good to have extras, just in case) books, as well as sorting them by grade level, and packing them into boxes for transport between my home where I have done the accounting, and the place where they will be put into bags for the students by volunteers.

I have developed a pain in a muscle — or is it a tendon? — in my upper arm that is rather remarkable in its intensity, so much so that I would like to know the name of the muscle, or tendon, so that I can speak gentle soothing words to it as I offer it hot tea and a compress. The stamp is the culprit. It is a fussy self-inking type that requires the page to be just so, the surface underneath perfectly flat, a rhythm of movement that is slow and deliberate with a particular amount of firm pressure. My arm hurts just thinking about it. I have a few hundred more books to go. Maybe I would be better off hand-writing the rest of them. Or maybe not.

So, let’s self-diagnose. Lateral head of the triceps brachii?


About pattiblaine

Raised under the name of Snyder in the upstate NY town of Vestal, I've worked as a typesetter, a fast food salad bar tender, an art reviewer, a waitress, a part-time nanny, and a very-bad-with-phones temp. Once upon a time I was all-but-thesis toward a Masters in Art History. Now I'm just a mom with a lot of fiber squirreled away throughout the house. We call it insulation. In 2013 I completed a life-long learning program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and am a postulant toward the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In addition to coordinating volunteers for the soup kitchen, I volunteer as a tutor at a deeply impoverished city elementary school, and am a docent at the Memorial Art Gallery.
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4 Responses to Ruminations on a repetitive movement injury

  1. perhaps the solution is sheets of Avery labels. Run them through a printer,and make a book plate. A fancy one even. then carefully add the sticker to the inside cover of the book.

    Labels come in lots of sizes, and in clear as well as white (and some even come in colors). The stamp is a good economical choice–if you don’t count the added expense of injury.

    (you could even just stamp the labels, –with a smooth even work surface, you could do several in one go–or get some one else to stamp, and you just work on peeling and sticking)

    • pattiblaine says:

      Cost is a big concern, Helen. I would love to use bookplates, but someone would have to donate them. Even if it was just labels that have been stamped. I try to spend as little as possible on everything so that we can provide more books! And I’m pretty thrifty on the books too. I’m trying to mitigate the physical toll by stretching this part of the job out over several days… Although I did try to do too much of it at one time at first. :-/

  2. Trying to use my freshly-minted yoga anatomy lessons here…..

    One thing you might try is to switch hands when stamping if possible. Surely it can’t be a total right or left handed action???? Also, most hand/arm stresses originate in the shoulder girdle. Think about what is happening there when you make the movement. Possibly just bringing some awareness to that area will give you an answer about how to change the alignment slightly. Subtle differences can have large results! Can you adjust the height of the surface where you are working if that is part of the problem? Also, I highly recommend arnica for muscle pain! And finally, isn’t this what interns are for? : )

    • pattiblaine says:

      I am hopelessly right-handed, Robyn, which I know is more a mindset than an actuality, but I simply cannot make a consistently good impression with my left hand. From crochet injuries in the past and wrist trouble due to knitting I know to attend to where my shoulders are and how my head and neck are aligned. I think this is a position problem — work surface too high and cramped — and it doesn’t help that the books don’t want to stay open and flat. I’m working on being better to myself ergonomicly-speaking.

      Not sure I can afford an intern on my meager stipend. Don’t you have to water them or something? 🙂

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