How a second opinion got to the root of this artist's pain
What was the problem?
It began with an ache at the base of my thumb, and developed into shooting pains in my hand. Then the pain migrated upwards. Some days the area around the shoulder blade was so painful I was unable to sleep. I never discovered the cause, but it seems my workstation was too low for my height, which resulted in bad posture.
How did you treat it?
I went to a physiotherapist, who diagnosed early stage carpal tunnel syndrome. I was referred to a hand surgeon who performed X-rays and more physiotherapy. This went on for months and cost a considerable sum of money, but had no effect. I then went to a new practitioner whose studied my shoulder area, now the focus of much of the pain. I was sent to a sports clinic, which conducted MRI scans and X-rays, and discovered a minor cervical disc herniation. The hand pain had been caused by the spinal cord in my neck sending pain down my arm. My workplace had my desk rebuilt under the supervision of an occupational therapist, who sent me to a neurosurgeon. I was told to stop all physiotherapy exercises and to sleep on my back without a pillow to straighten my neck. The pain then rapidly disappeared.
What’s your advice for anyone suffering similar problems?
Pain in your drawing hand might have its origins in the spine, so have your workstation carefully set up and your posture correct. You might have to get a fourth opinion to find the cause of a problem. See another specialist if you aren’t making any progress, and ensure that they look at your whole body, not just the location of the pain.
Alex is an illustrator and concept artist who specialises in biology, zoology and realworld technology.