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tormentchris

whats wrong with my hands?

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i have been a roofer by trade for @ 18 years. i've been blacksmithing for about 1 year. for the last 6 months i wake up in the middle of the night in agony. my hand are numb and sore. my left hand, middle two fingers, and fore arm are throbbing (tong holding hand.) my right hand ( hammering hand) not as bad, but the same. i got some braces for at night and it seems to help. does anyone have any ideas on what this is and what in the world i can do? ouch!!!

any help would be very appreciated, chris

Edited by tormentchris

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Sounds a little like Carpal Tunnel.

 

I would have to agree with this, but you really should talk to a doctor. My Carpal Tunnel only makes my pinky and ring fingers go numb, but yours could be more severe--repetitive stresses are killer on the hands and wrists

Edited by Noah M Legel

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It is common to try to grip too tight when beginning; having the properly sized tongs for the stock or working from a parent bar and doing away with tongs may help. Also, having a hammer that is not too heavy and has a properly shaped handle helps. Using good hammering technique is important also. Please consult a doctor, as my comments assume a healthy body with no damage.

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It also sounds like your tongs don't fit right. That will make you grip too hard.

 

I'm going to re-post a rant I wrote a while back that never made it to posting because the site crashed. It's not necessarily directed at you, but it's something everyone needs to hear every so often:

 

/Lecture mode on:

 

If you're hurting yourself you're doing something wrong, unless you already have arthritis.

 

You may need better tongs. In my experience wolfjaw tongs are the worst you can buy. They look like they can hold anything, but in reality they can hold nothing as firmly as needed without having to grip the heck out of 'em. If the tongs don't fit, modify them so they do or get/make some that will. My current favorite for blade work are the Off Center brand V-box tongs. They'll hold flat stock up to the width of the jaws as well as round or square and everything in between.

 

With hammers, the primary problem is the noobie vulcan death grip. You do not need to grip your hammer with the fist of death! Handle shape can help with this, but a lot of it is just knowing how to hold the thing so you don't get tendonitis. Think of it as a gentle handshake, in which you grip the handle loosely with just the sides of your forefinger and thumb, with the forefinger curled around the handle. That's it. The other fingers are there only to provide a little guidance and slip-resistance. It should be a loose enough grip that someone could jerk the hammer out of your hand while you're swinging it. Do not put the thumb along the top of the handle unless you really like tennis elbow.

 

I like a rectangular handle with beveled corners, as it gives me a good sense of indexing when flipping the hammer from face to pein. Round handles are difficult for me.

 

Elbow in next to the body, and don't swing like you're playing whack-a-mole. Lift the hammer and "throw" it at the steel, guiding it with your thumb and forefinger but not driving it down with your triceps. The momentum does the job, not brute force. Allow the hammer to bounce back and catch it on the rise, adding just enough muscle to bring it back to top center. That's why an anvil needs to have rebound. If you do this, you can hammer all day without strain, whereas the death grip will wear you out in an hour or two, in addition to giving you microtears in the tendons of your elbow and forearm.

 

Yes, I used to have trouble with that, especially when tired or frustrated. I also got tendonitis and couldn't hammer for a few months. That sucked, so I am now mindful of my body when hammering. Doing a demo and having to stop in the middle because your arm quits working is darned embarrassing!

 

/Lecture mode off.

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Yes, sounds like Carpal tunnel but as the others said trot yourself to a doctor ASAP. Nerve damage is an ugly thing. Could be that the years of roofing caught up with you but I doubt that would explain the left hand problem.

 

So as Alan has said it is more likely a combination of poor fitting equipment and the Noobie death grip.

 

Alan had a lot of good points. Read it couple of times. Try it, read it again and so on.

 

 

 

web_good_sword_grip.JPGWEB_GOOD_GRIP.JPG

 

Above are pictures from a section of my site called Get a grip.

 

I started Kendo and Iaido training at the age of 40 (Geez-that was 17 years ago). I had some hand and elbow problems because of the death grip I was using.

 

In get a grip I talk about TeNoUchi. It is simple concept but one that can be difficult to grasp (pun intended :D)

 

But without a doubt the one thing that helped tremendously in Iaido and swinging a hammer is placing the meat of your palm on the RIGHT side of your hand on top of the Sword/hammer handle. we

 

web_good_offhand.JPG

 

This changed everything for me. Give it shot. It may not heal what ails you now but it will help prevent future damage.

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Allans comments reminded me of my experience with that same deathgrip earlier this year. And I was actually using a pair of wolfjaws from OCP at the time, after my hands hurt like hell for a couple weeks I refused to use those tongs again till this past couple months. And then only because the rest of my tongs were not working. But holding your tongs and hammer correctly is so important not only to protect your hands and work but it also prevents blisters most times as well.

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I was a letter sorter and mail carrier for 22 years and the constant grip and repitition day in and day out lead me to carpal tunnel surgery. It helped some but not as much as trading occupations (I custom make knives and do general blacksmithing now). Tongs are a tool that can be modified so if in gripping your material they tend to open the handles too much and cause a strenuous grip, they can and should be heated and reformed behind the jaws. If the grip is not that bad you can do what I do and take some 3/16 round stock and fashion some sliding handle hooks that will maintain the solid grip without putting all the excesive strain on yourself. They basically lock the material in your tongs so all you have to do is hold them up, this is also a great aid as such that you can step back from the forge when waiting for a heat and not worry about losing your material from your tongs. Wes

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thank you guys. i'm sure all these pointers are going to be helpful. i do grip too tight, and i've made all my tongs. they are getting alot better now with experience. i think i'll have to take all my first 3-4 shotty sets and scrap them, modify them, or just out right make new ones. i'll defiantly try everything and take all pointers to heart. i started working with a 25 year veteran blacksmith, so i've consulted him too. he just doesn't have that problem, but i will defiantly tell him about all this. agian thank you, and i'll let you all know. chris

Edited by tormentchris

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Listen to the advice and get your butt to your doctor. At the very least it costs you a co pay or a small visit payment and the very outside chance it was a sign of something worse,” it might save your life"! :unsure:

 

Have you any history of heart trouble? My heart doctor is constantly asking me of any sign of numbness anywhere! I never even knew I had my first heart attack. I had a history of indigestion and acid reflux so I thought that was what was going on. They caught my first heart attack on a routine electrocardiograme in preperation for my back surgery. Three heart attacks and two stent operations later I don't ignore anything anymore! I like the thought of hanging around to aggravate everyone for a while longer! :lol:

 

More than likely it’s the CTS. I did construction for years and I have what I like to call Carpenters shoulder! It comes from swinging a heavy framing hammer for year’s, day in and day out! I have trouble with it from time to time.

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sounds horrible, hope it sorts itelf out soon. Better to take it easy now and still be able to play in a few years than try and work through it and end up disabled,.

 

my 2c of advice, avoid death grip on the hammer as mentioned, and 2ndly get yourself a pack of 'jubilee clips' (you crazy americans might call them hose clips :rolleyes: ) , the little metal bands you tighten with a screwdriver ^_^

 

These can be clamped around the tong handles as tight as you need :)

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no, i don't have any heart trouble. in fact i have a very healthy body from roofing for close to 20 years. i'm pretty sure its cts. im going to see a doc just to be sure though and i've already started mking new tongs and working on my grip. thanks agian.

-chris

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no, i don't have any heart trouble. in fact i have a very healthy body from roofing for close to 20 years. i'm pretty sure its cts. im going to see a doc just to be sure though and i've already started mking new tongs and working on my grip. thanks agian.

-chris

 

Hey wasn't trying to scare you. I did construction from the time I was fourteen and thought I was healthy as a horse. I had my first heart attack around 40 so I was supprised to find out that I had a heart blockage. So now even though I could probably have counted the times I had been to a doctor on both hands before the heart attack. Now I don't fool around even if it sounds silly I mention it to the doctor, you see I go regularly now.

It sounds like its a good chance it is the CTS. I don't have trouble with the hands but the shoulder that I used to swing that framing hammer all those years bothers me nowdays! Good luck! :D

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I work in physical rehab and you want to use ice to reduce the inflammation. Use a gelled ice pack on your wrists with only a paper towel for 25 minutes. This will stimulate natural inflammatory steroids into the area and neutralize the inflammatory chemicals . Anti-inflammatory meds will also help and a doc can give you better idea just what part of your wrist is affected.

 

And as mentioned above prevention is vital. It's far easier to do then to try to get through a period of inflammatory pain and numbness. Take breaks and listen to the pain, even though you're enjoying the activity. Carpal tunnel surgery will fix this current problem (maybe) but if you don't change and prevent it then you will end up having it again.

Edited by B Finnigan

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Chris, I can't tell you anything more than these wise people have, other than I feel your pain. Often. Choking up and death-gripping the hammer will do a lot of damage. So will "whipping" the hammer using your wrist rather than striking with your whole arm. I am allowing myself some recovery time before I go out and hit metal again, and then I plan on consciously trying to train myself to use a hammer differently.

 

Best of luck to you and take it easy,

Jim

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I have had those same symptoms from a pinched nerve in my upper back being out of place (the spine) . a chiroprator helped me ... and a long time healing.. But I agree about what was said about getting to a doctor to find out what it is... then you know what you are dealing with... Good Luck and hope you can find relief...

 

Dick

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If it's the pinky and ring finger that's your ulnar nerve being compressed by shortened muscle bands around the base of your wrist. If it's the middle and index it's the radial nerve. Both are symptoms of carpal tunnel. The good news is that it's fixable. Before you look at surgery go to a reputable chiropractor in your area. They've been working on curing the carpal tunnel in my left hand and we've had GREAT success. I have what's called Double Crush syndrome. I have two places where the nerves are pinched, one is the wrist, and the second is the C7 vertebrae that low neck/upper back. There are massages that you can have done on your wrist that will help to restretch the muscles and manage your pain. PM me if I can help you with what I've been told.

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I injured my right hand a while back and I am really struggling to use the hammer. My pinky and ring finger are tight and won't close all the way and I have pain at the base of the palm/wrist junction on the pinky side. No numbness at least. Basically my doctor says it's tendonitus.

 

I'd like to hear more from others who may have had this and have a recovery story :lol:

 

I am a little freaked out. Suddenly I know how much I love doing this. I have even thought of learning to use my left hand. Anyone ever try this?

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Adriann first off let me say I dont claim to be an expert. Now that thats out of the way ive had some very similar problems with the above posts, gripping too tight/numbness etc, and it led to me developing a nasty case of tendonitis. There is a post here on the forum explaining the relationship to how much in our craft we have to squeeze tongs/hammers etc. that can lead to an imbalance in the fore-arms. Heres the post for you to read over http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=18863&st=0&p=175671&hl=height&fromsearch=1entry175671. Mike blue has explained that relationship in much better detail than I could in the post, but long story short, his idea about using the rubber bands has helped me Tremendously. Hope this helps a little.

 

Steve

Edited by slab698

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Adriaaun

there's a blacksmith in my area who makes his living at it and has no power hammer or press. He has taught himself to be ambidextrous and he sees it as a good solution not only in avoiding injury but forestalling fatigue. sounds like a pretty good idea to me. definitely start as though your left hand is a beginner though.

-Morgan

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Heya,

 

I know its already been discussed, but it really sounds like carpal tunnel.

 

Im 25 and work as a logger - the vibrations from the chainsaw caused me to have the same problems. During the day my little finger, would be the only finger not numb/sleeping, and I would wake during the night with cramps in my entire arm. Very painfull, and it completely ruined my sleep.. Last year I had 2 minor surgeries last year to fix it - and now I have no problems at all.

 

After my surgery i was told by a therapist, that it is possible to fix it by working out, and especially targeting your shoulders..

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A really good physical therapist is your best friend. The best ones are older and/or have been injured.

 

Jim

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Noah,

According to my Orthopedist, if your little finger and ring finger are getting numb, it's not CT. those nerves

are affected in your elbow. Who knew? He's done both of my hands and works with the Red Sox, so I

figure he knows what he's doing.

Bill

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if it does turn out to be CT google up some stretching exercises off the net. my wife used to sew at one of the few remaining glove companies in the states. she was diagnosed with CT after a month of physical therapy (she skipped surgery) and daily stretches she had the symptoms under control.

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My first thoughts are carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel(lkke carpal tunnel just originates at the elbow).

First off is follow the good advice laid out here for technique. But you should rest and avoid aggravating motions where possible. It takes a long time to develop these types of conditions so it takes a long time for them to resolve.

Sometimes bracing can be helpful.

 

Take care.

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