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Preventing Injuries for Artists...

Journal Entry: Sat Mar 29, 2014, 12:17 AM
muscle hands. by el-dalton

Preventing Injuries for Artists (and people who work with computers)

Hello there my fellow deviants, time for a new update. It’s a long entry, so go grab a snack and sit tight with a good posture, because there's a lot to learn here - even some anatomy. ;)

I just read about Loish’s injury on her blog, and it’s truly saddening to see a fellow artist struggling with a physical limitation that affects their workflow.

Loish is absolutely right, the body has its limits and we ought to be careful before it’s too late.

Tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, aren’t stranger terms to me, many artists and people who work with computers for many hours, tend to deal with the same conditions, some let it advance to the stage where the only treatment is surgery, which can potentially reduce mobility and destroy an illustrator’s career. –Yes, it’s that bad, it’s not scaremongering.

So what can we do? While there are risk factors that can’t be modified (gender, genetic predisposition), there are many things we can do to prevent the onset of injury. For years I suffered the first symptoms of the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome, and after a relative got it diagnosed, I took on the task of learning more about it, and experimenting with exercises and stretches to deal with the pain after long work shifts with the drawing tablet. I’ve, also, learned about other conditions, that I will share here with you, and hopefully you can take care of yourself and prevent injuries.

Disclaimer: Please take into account that I’m not a doctor or an expert. If you’re suffering the symptoms already, go to the doctor, only a trained professional can diagnose and give a proper treatment for your particular case. Otherwise, if you aren’t experiencing crippling discomfort/pain but you work a lot with pencils, tablet or mouse, this might be helpful for you.   

Computer-induced medical problems can be an umbrella term for the various problems a computer user can develop from prolonged and incorrect computer use. The medical problems that can arise from using computers can be generally defined as the many medical conditions a computer user may experience from using computers extensively over a prolonged period of time in an inefficient manner”. More at…

 “Prolonged time” and “inefficient manner” are the key issues here. The odds are you have a bad posture right now, placing unnecessary stress on your shoulders and spine. People tend to lean forward with the neck creating this unnatural posture, to read or when they’re drawing, this is extremely harmful in the long run. You must adapt your work station/desktop to your comfort as much as possible; additionally take many breaks when you’re working. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and let’s see the conditions in more depth and what can we do to prevent them.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel - a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand - houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.

Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Some carpal tunnel sufferers say their fingers feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent.

Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain. Persons with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the body's nerves and make them more susceptible to compression are also at high risk.


Preventing CTS:

Reduce your force and relax your grip. Applying too much strength when using your tablet pen, or your mouse, is a very common mistake people commit, usually because the mouse isn’t working well, or the mouse’ or tablet’s pressure sensitivity is low. If you feel your hand is very tense when working and your fingers feel sore after a short period, you might need a new mouse or adjust your tablet, whatever is the case. Check out how to control the tablet’s pressure sensitivity here.

Maintain a neutral wrist position, keeping your hands and wrists in line with your forearms. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most commonly caused by repetitive flexing of the wrist. Whenever you’re doing a repetitive movement, you should try to maintain your hand in line with the forearm, instead of flexing your wrist. Monitor your hands to maintain this position. Remember: avoid leaning on the heel of your hand or your wrist.

Improve your posture. Incorrect posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward. When your shoulders are in this position, your neck and shoulder muscles are shortened, compressing nerves in your neck. This can affect your wrists, fingers and hands. Maintain proper posture. Sit up nice and tall instead of slouching. This will keep your body from feeling too much strain in any one area, including your wrists. Also, keep your work right out in front of you so you don't have to bend or twist to one side or another to reach it.

Being overweight increases the risk therefore you should maintain your overall health. Make sure to eat at least three healthy meals a day, get regular exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep a night. More here..

Increase your upper body strength. For most conditions here, I would recommend lifting weights and improving upper body strength, not only this helps to keep a proper posture, but also protects your tendons and nerves. You don’t have to start lifting heavy and doing 1000 pushups, you can start with the lightest weights, in a proper fitness program or with a personal trainer, or do 3 sets of 10 reps of modified pushups to start building up strength. If you’re scared of doing pushups since it requires to flex the wrist and put a lot of stress in there, you can get pushups stands, which are fairly inexpensive.

Remember always to stretch and cool down after workout sessions.

Stretch daily. I’m not just talking of random 1 minute stretch during the day, I’m talking about entire sessions (10+ minutes) of stretching, ideally after you have worked out. You can try yoga as well.

Some of my favorite stretches:

  • Wall Chest stretch.
  • 3 top exercises for CTS. 
  • Single leg spinal twist. Follow these instructions. Then flex the wrist you’re looking at, your hand should be a 90º and you must be able to look at the back of your hand, you might feel some pulling and discomfort the first times, just stretch your hand few times in this position and switch to the other side.
Take frequent breaks. Give your hands and wrists a break by gently stretching and bending them periodically (at least once every half an hour). Alternate tasks when possible.

Ice your wrists. It’s recommended that you ice your wrists several times a day, when you're feeling mild pain in that area after a lot of work. You might also use “cold gel” for pain and inflammation relief.


Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis):

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a condition in which the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender. It is commonly caused by non-inflammatory, chronic degenerative changes (Enthesopathy) in the tendon that attaches the forearm muscle extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) to the elbow. It is most prevalent in middle age and in men than women.

For most people the pain only occurs when they use their forearm and wrist, particularly for twisting movements such as turning a door handle or opening a jar. However, for some people the pain is constant; it occurs at rest and can affect their sleep. The pain may travel down your arm from your elbow towards your wrist. You may find it difficult to hold items such as a knife or fork, a cup or a pen, or to straighten your arm fully. Some people also notice a stiffness in the affected arm.

The site of the pain in tennis elbow is where some tendons from your forearm muscles attach to the bone around your elbow. The pain is thought to be due to an injury, or several tiny injuries, to one or more of these tendons. An injury can cause a tiny tear to a tendon and lead to inflammation and scarring of the tendon.

Tennis elbow is more likely to occur if you have unfit forearm muscles. For example, if you suddenly play a lot of tennis whilst on holiday, or you do a DIY project or some gardening when you are not used to strong forearm actions. However, even if you are used to heavy work, you can overdo it and injure a tendon.

Preventing Tennis Elbow:

Take breaks. Avoid overusing your arm with repeated movements that can injure your tendon. (Seriously, just take breaks, dammit. Use an alarm if you must.)

Increase strength. (Sounds familiar?) Strengthening the muscles of your arm, shoulder, and upper back to help take stress off of your elbow. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you about exercises you can do to build up your forearm muscles.

Wear a brace. Wearing a brace during activities that require grasping or twisting arm movements. This brace may distribute pressure from muscle use throughout the arm, easing pressure on the tendon. The brace is not usually used for prevention. But it may be recommended for someone who is at very high risk for tennis elbow. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of using one of these braces for prevention.

Avoid using your wrist and elbow more than the rest of your arm. Spread the load to the larger muscles of your shoulder and upper arm. This is especially true for people who draw in small or medium tablets or paper. Try to use your entire arm, distribute the movement up to the shoulder, that’s where your lines should be born in, not the wrist.



Posture-related injuries from computer use

Back and neck pain, headaches, and shoulder and arm pain are common computer-related injuries.

Although sitting requires less muscular effort than standing, it still causes physical fatigue (tiredness) and you need to hold parts of your body steady for long periods of time. This reduces circulation of blood to your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments, sometimes leading to stiffness and pain. If a workstation is not set up properly, these steady positions can put even greater stress on your muscles and joints.

Preventing muscle and joint problems:

Setting a work station properly:
  • Have the computer monitor either at eye level or slightly lower.
  • Have your keyboard and drawing tablet at a height that lets your elbows rest comfortably at your sides. Your forearms should be roughly parallel with the floor and level with the keyboard/drawing tablet.
  • Adjust your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor, or use a footstool.
  • Use an ergonomic chair, specially designed to help your spine hold its natural curve while sitting.

For more on good posture check out link.

Eyestrain and Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a temporary condition resulting from focusing the eyes on a computer display for protracted, uninterrupted periods of time. Some symptoms of CVS include headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, redness in the eyes, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, vertigo/dizziness, polyopia, and difficulty refocusing the eyes. These symptoms can be further aggravated by improper lighting conditions (i.e. glare or bright overhead lighting) or air moving past the eyes (e.g. overhead vents, direct air from a fan).



Preventing CVS:

Be careful with the lighting. Make sure your main source of light (such as a window) is not shining into your face or directly onto the computer screen.

Keep your distance. Make sure the screen is not too close to your face.

Adjust your screen. Reduce the contrast and brightness of your screen by adjusting the controls.

Rest your eyes. Frequently look away from the screen and focus on faraway objects.

Visit the doctor. Have regular eye examinations to check that any blurring, headaches and other associated problems are not caused by any underlying disorders. It's also recommendable for people who wear glasses to check their prescription every year or two.


I hope this information helps you to avoid developing a serious condition in the future.
Keep on creating and be safe! :heart:


Further Reading:

Repetitive Strain Injury

Computer Related Injuries

Safe Computer Use Tips

Musculoskeletal Disorders

* * * * *

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puddlefisher Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Professional Filmographer
Just what I was looking for - thanks a bunch! :giggle:
Ilikechocolatedotcom Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
My back started hurting after I got my pentablet 'cos I used it so much, I would spend practically the whole weekend sitting and drawing with it. If I didn't stretch my hand out every few hours it would cramp up really badly so I couldn't move it without it hurting.

And in art and writing I always bend right over and have my work on my lap because I don't like people looking at it, then my back and neck hurt like hell all day. I have to stop and massage myself a lot.

Thanks for making this, I'll try to do some of the preventions.
experi-Mental-Life Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I'm wondering why you didn't include Tendonitis? I've had it for years, literally due to writing/drawing, and they wanted to do surgery after I went through everything and it still hurt. I refused, but they mysteriously couldn't find anything wrong with my wrist after two or three X-Rays, an MRI, two steroid shots, a full forearm length splint, and the occassional use of a brace. I'm pretty sure it's not Monchousen Syndrome. (Sorry about the horrible spelling.)
I'm sure exercising and stretching could help it as well. 
I think the rest of the tips are very nice! I have eye problems now and didn't know that there was much I could do. I knew something was wrong when I thought I could actually feel my eyes refocusing. It sounds so strange, but it felt like what my camera looks like! It takes like 5 seconds to focus (Canon Rebel EOS t3i), and I swear my eyes were doing the same thing. I didn't know it was like, an actual disease.
Also- the back/neck is true too! I have to invest in a new chair definately!!
JustaAnimeGirl Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Well uh, I have been working on a computer since I was seven or eight and I'm somewhere near twelve soooo, this DOESN'T apply to me?
am I invulnerable?
CoffeeKai Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014
Why are you on dA if you're 12?
Hotarubutt Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I've been working on computers since I was 2 or 3 years old :\
CoffeeKai Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014
not an answer to my question but
Hotarubutt Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I saw a seven year old on here uwu

They dun care anymore. 
CoffeeKai Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014
Pretty sure they do care
I mean, if they didn't, 'justaanimegirl' wouldn't be banned right now lol
Nosvertu Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Didn't LuVisi get something like this?

This sort of thing sucks, because there's not too much you can do to prevent this, like any job that puts you at risk for some type of repetetive-motion injury. And the main difference between this line of work and others is that your income absolutely depends on the health of your drawing arm.
YakitatePan Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Umayged im too lazy to read TwT but i think this is serious
MellieBels Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Student Digital Artist
This..... I needed this.
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Good to know :D
MellieBels Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Student Digital Artist
/hug/ your information is super helpful! I've had hand/wrist and now finger problems for two years now and it's at its worst! D: I'm trying to heal it so drawing can be fun again.;3;
i4dezign73 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014   Digital Artist
Best thing i've ever invested in and I've been using a computer near on 25 years!
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
hah! I had seen those, they also look fun to use.
i4dezign73 Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014   Digital Artist
I've actually started replacing my normal weights routine (also great for rheumatic and weak limbs) With 20mins bursts of this - it's so simple, because you can either incorporate it into a routine, or you can just use it whilst watching TV. You won't end up with bulging muscles, but you'd be amazed just how much it helps. I get no pain anymore. And spent many an hour in agony over the years :) Oh and I'm not getting commission for advertising this. Just think more people might benefit from its use. :)
sky-bells Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just a comment to add to those who have bad posture and/or are experiencing back pain or any other muscle pains, I highly reccommend you go see a chiropractor to get it fixed up and to see what exercises you can do to prevent it from getting worse!!
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks for the add.

Personally, I've never been to one, but it's definitively a good option (after going to check with a doctor it's nothing more serious).
hamboggy Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Been having problems with my hand for the past 7 months :( Really makes you unmotivated.
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, it sucks. When I had intermittent pain, I would just take few days rest. But if you're having a lot of trouble, you should check with a doctor, before is develops into a full blown condition.

Best of luck. :)
Walking-Maelstrom Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Heh, for a minute my brain couldn't get out of my academic mode and I thought you meant litigious or IP injuries. :iconderpplz:

But good tips on the CVS...that's something I know I gotta avoid but my lower back pain strangely enough is caused more after a run so I gotta rethink how I posture myself then instead of plain sitting.
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Yep, you have to check your form when running and working out in general, maybe try different types of sneakers (if you haven't)? I work out barefoot at home, because the sneakers actually affect my posture negatively and I was having pain in my knees. I have flatfoot-ish, it's not that bad, but regular sneakers generally don't work that great for me. 
Walking-Maelstrom Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Ah ha I see you suffer from pronated feet much like me.  I do what you do, I exercise barefoot at home but I insist on using arch support sneakers when running.  I just gotta figure out posture while I'm actually running since it's just my lower back.  Legs, feet, and posterior solid as a rock, but fml my lower back. D:
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Professional Digital Artist

Funny, I just saw this on mt YT feed "Yoga For Lower Back Pain"… Not sure if it appeals to you, since men are always reserved with yoga for being "too girly", but I would give it a try, it's only 15 minutes, and no one has to know. :ninja:
Walking-Maelstrom Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Honestly I'm way past that point to think that yoga is "too girly" and if it cures my pain I'm more than willing to roll out the mat.

In complete secrecy of course. :iconlosplz:
PrinceOfFire Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Good to know. :)
Ros-Kovac Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I'm glad you find it informative. :aww:
PrinceOfFire Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Yup. :D
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