To speak or not to speak, that is the question

Summary:Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has me exploring the feasibility of leaving the keyboard behind for my writing.

Wrist brace

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an evil condition. It can reduce the strength of your wrist and hand. It can make it difficult to do simple things like grip objects. It can reduce you to tears with severe pain when you do things like move your hand. Worst of all, if you are a writer, it can make typing on a keyboard an exercise in painful futility.

I've had CTS for years. That's not surprising given the amount of typing I've done the last decade. I suspect my years of using 5+ pound Tablet PCs for taking ink notes in my previous career played a role, too. In fact, I experienced symptoms of CTS more often back then than in recent years after leaving the heavy tablets behind.

The CTS symptoms start all at once. First, there is alternating numbness and tingling in my left hand. Then the pain in the wrist and hand appears, triggered by simply moving my wrist. It progressively gets worse until I do something about it.

Several years ago, a doctor recommended a wrist brace to wear when the symptoms appear. That suggestion was golden, as wearing the brace for a week or two has always caused the symptoms to go away.

Thinking about the future and the impact that CTS will have on my ability to type, I've been giving serious thought about using speech input for my writing.

The brace holds my wrist and hand in a rigid position, making it clumsy to do simple things. It's worth putting up with the brace though, as it stops the progression of CTS and gets my hand back to normal. I then put the brace away until the next time symptoms appear, usually months later.

This time, CTS is back with a vengeance. My left hand started tingling a week ago. Then the numbness started, followed by the pain. When I started paying close attention to the problem, I noticed something I've never seen before — the muscles in my left hand have atrophied. It's no wonder my left hand's strength is markedly reduced compared to my right hand.

Unfortunately, my trusty wrist brace didn't make the move last year with my other important stuff. I have no idea where it is, and I really need it to arrest the progression of the CTS.

Thankfully, Amazon has me covered, and a new brace will be here today. I'm concerned that my symptoms are worse than they've been in the past, and the brace may not work as well as it has previously. If that's the case, then surgery will be in my future.

Even if the brace is able to reverse my symptoms, it will take a few weeks. Typing will be difficult while wearing the brace, and given how severe these symptoms are, I will be reluctant to return to the keyboard even if they disappear in the future. It's clear that the CTS is getting progressively worse.

Thinking about the future and the impact that CTS will have on my ability to type, I've been giving serious thought about using speech input for my writing. It's a scary thought but it may be unavoidable.

I'm a mobile guy, and all my gear is of the mobile variety. That's what I use, and that's what I have to work with to use speech recognition for writing. This leads me to wonder how different platforms and devices will handle the speech recognition.

Next: Speech recognition doesn't scare me; what devices I will test

Topics: Mobility


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.