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Occupational hazard or should I be worried?


Hi People!

My first post. I need a little advice. I have been wire wrapping
jewelry using 18 to 32 gauge wire maybe one day out of three for the
past six weeks for perhaps 8 hours at a time. Now I have numbness and
tingling in the ring fingers. No problems with the pinky. My thumbs
and fingertips on the first and second fingers became calloused like
a guitar players, but that seems logical. I am right-handed.

I haven’t suffered any major catastrophic accidents while wrapping.
I don’t recall using my ring fingers for anything other than
tensioning wire maybe half a dozen times. My other fingers seem fine.

The first incident was a week ago. I woke up at three am with the
ring finger on my left hand cold, numb and tingling. This lasted two
days. Today the same thing happened an hour ago to the ring finger on
my right hand, but it is already fading and yesterday my right hand
went numb at the base of the palm.

I have a neurological appointment in ten days because I have other
symptoms suggesting a nervous system disorder, but I thought I’d
check with everybody here in case this is just something that happens
to wire-wrappers.

If I’ve done myself an injury just wire-wrapping I dread to think
what I’ll do to myself now I’ve bought a micro torch and some solder

Any observations appreciated - even 'its ‘never happened to me’.



Hi Sasha

It sounds very much like a carpal tunnel problem although you will
need to consult a medical practitioner to establish whether this is
the case. I suffer from same problem in my right hand and the
symptoms are always there to some extent but become worse after a lot
of hammering or using power tools that generate vibration. I have a
wrist brace I sometimes wear at night and a couple of years ago I was
in a trial where they tried ultrasonic therapy. It seemed to provide
a modest amount of relief but wasn’t really worth the trouble or
ongoing expense for that matter. My GP discussed the prospect of
surgery but wasn’t sure it would be of much medium to long term
benefit so we decided not to go down that path. What I do now is to
avoid or mitigate the activities that cause the most problems.

My jewellery making is largely based of wax modelling, casting and
soldering. Using the polishing motor or flex shaft doesn’t cause any
problems. When I am hammering I mostly use light hammers which I
hold sufficiently loosely to avoid transmitting much shock to my
wrist. I use my chasing hammer in a similar way.

Around the house and garden I have some problems using a lawnmower,
brush cutter or chainsaw, but this doesn’t happen every day. There
are no significant problems with cooking or housework. When we have
done building work I mostly either use a power screwdriver or a
compressed air nail gun to fasten things. Adaption is annoying at
times but life goes on.

I hope it works out for you

All the best

Jenifer Gow


Hi Sasha

It really does sound like carpal tunnel.

If you repeat the same motion with your hand enough you are bound to
aggravate and inflame the tendons running through your carpal

I found the best way (for me) to avoid seriously reinjuring these
muscles is to take breaks, stretch your hand and switch up the
activity regularly when you can. The worst thing you can do is work
through the pain and numbness, it will only aggravate the muscles

When it feels like those feelings are sneaking up on my hand
regularly, I pay a visit to my acupuncturist to have them loosened

Best of luck!


Hi, Sasha -

“Repetitive work” injuries are sometimes difficult to track down
because the symptom is not always directly tied to the cause, and
the same worker may not have the same symptoms for the same injury.
The body can be funny that way.

Prior to the doctor’s appointment, you might want to see what
happens if [can] stop the new work activity for a while to see if
the symptoms clear up. One of our corrective actions to repetitive
work injuries in the jewelry manufacturing environment was to switch
people out of jobs when they reported new aches and pains. The
result of that communication process was that our exposure was
reduced tremendously over time.

Of course, your mileage may vary.



Hi-Some years ago I spent a great deal of time crocheting 26-30
gauge fine silver wire necklaces, and weaving gemstone beads into
the mesh. The necklaces were lovely, but I believe that the
repetitive motion triggered carpal tunnel syndrome and later,
because I didn’t stop in time, I found Ihad used up all the
cartilage in my thumb joints. I did have Carpal Tunnel surgery and
that was very helpful. Later when my thumb joints went, I had Thumb
Joint Replacement surgery (an amazing operation that was very
successful and has lasted a long time). My hands are in good shape
now. However, I believe the focussed repetitive motion of the wire
work may wellbe responsible for the problem with the hands, neck and
shoulders. It is a good idea to take a break, rest your hands and do
some mild stretching exercises. Get a good medical opinion and then
decide whether, or what changes to make. (If the problem is
localised to your hands, see a really good hand surgeon). I switched
to making models in wax and using a torch and have not had any
problems since. Also important to look at your seating
arrangement–height of seat relative to work table, and posture etc.
Try not to get alarmed!

Good Luck
Elegant Insects Jewelry


Dear Sasha, you may have carpel tunnel (may be reversed). There are
good wrist braces to wear at night. i had it for eight years, and i
swore that if i would ever have it in the other wrist i would be in
the docs office whining “fix it now!” If it is, it will only get
worse, deal with it now so that you can have good night sleeps and
get on with your life, blessings pat


Sasha- After over 45 years of jewelry making and 50 of guitar
playing my poor hands have really taken a beating from clenching and
griping inward.

The VERY best piece of advice I ever got from a phys. therapist is
that If you do one motion for a while you must do the opposite as
well. I keep the heavy blue rubber bands that come on broccoli in my
shop apron pocket.

During idle moments I put it on my dominant hand near the end of my
finger tips and try to open the fingers against the pressure of the
rubber band.

For my back and neck I try to go to the gym a few days a week and
focus on strengthening my back and neck muscles to pull me back and
upright rather than hunched over.

I’ve had both carpal and neck surgery. If you cut me I’ll bleed
Advil but I can still work. Just not as much.

Best wishes for a long and successful career.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry

Jo Haemer


Hi Sasha-

I spent most of my undistinguished career as a Safety Professionaland
had a certification as an Ergonomics Specialist and spent most of my
time trying to help prevent repetitive motion and material handling
problems. So I have some idea what I am talking about. And you should
probably be a bit worried. What you describe sounds like carpal
tunnel syndrome (CTS) and the best next step is to seek medical help
as you are planning. CTS results when overuse/misuse of the hand
causes tendons in the wrist to swell in an enclosed area. This puts
pressure on the nerve that feeds the little and ringfingers of the
hand causing numbness, tingling and pain. That is how excessive use
of your index and middle fingers causes pain in the ring and little
fingers. If you keep on doing the same things the same way, it tends
to get worse. Traditional treatment has often been surgery to
increase the size of the carpal tunnel and rest. And then way too
often, the victim goes right back into the same work process that
caused the problem and here we go again.

Some of the risk factors involved in development of CTS are
congenital factors (eg wrist size and shape), force and frequency of
motions, work/rest patterns, and posture. Performing twisting or
rotating motions while using a “pinch” grip with the wrist deviated
in any direction- forwards, backwards, ortowards either side is most
likely to result in CTS. Rapid, forceful motions repeated frequently
with infrequent rest periods increase the risk.

So what can you do? 1. Use hand tools to eliminate the need for
forceful pinch grips by the fingers as much as possible. Picking up
or holding an object with the finger tips is a pinch grip. 2. Keep
your wrists as straight as possible when working, particularly when
twisting, turning or applying force. This is probably the most
important risk factor to change. 3. Adjust your work station to
minimize stress on arms and shoulders. 4. Take frequent breaks or do
tasks requiring different muscle group use. 5. Don’t use improvised
splints (eg bowling braces), they can be a lot worse than nothing.6
Listen to your doctor and take this condition seriously. 7. Good
luck and take care of yourself.

Jim J


Okay Guys,

This is something people should not over looked.

The last two digits on all of my limbs were getting cold and numb,
and it was a mystery. I had nerve conduction studies done (which can
be surprisingly painful), and it was found that in my hands it looked
like I had carpel tunnel. However my toes, although still numb and
cold did not register as a problem with the studies.

I had blood tests done, and this actually showed an elevated
platelet level, a normal platelet level is around 200, mine are now
around 750. Platelets make your blood clot and help fight infections.
A high level can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

I am now on a low dose aspirin to make my blood more fluid, and
hopefully that will be the only medication I will need. My fingers
are no longer cold and numb.

I suggest that you get a blood test and check the platelet levels.

Regards Charles A.


Hi Jen!

Thank you for that. It explains the problems in my right hand. I
don’t recall if I have had lower palm pain in the left hand, but I
have a feeling I might have.

I would like to do casting myself. I thought I would start with wire
wrapping, banging, filing and soldering to get a feel for my
materials and take it from there.

I shall have to train hubby or one of my tiny minions to do the



if you would like a training manual for a Chinese medical health
practice called Qigong.

Email me offline and I will send it to you. If you are an academic I
can send you the 200 page thesis.

This is not cosmic woo woo stuff but based on science. It may be
useful or it may not. But worth the read.

not part of this shall be sold as it is freeware. copy and share but
do not sell.

if i find it being sold i will sue you big time, i own the
intellectual rights to this and am happy to give it away. it is
based on over 40 years of practise and 5 years academic research. it
is the essence of an m.a.(hons) degree.




had a similar problem when studying at university too much mousing
around on the computer. Could barely write my last exam. Had weeks of
rest and it got better.

Now on the bench I do not do the same thing for more than ten
minutes without changing. No problems.

Also I have multiple work stations so I am not sitting for too long
in the one position.




When I am hammering I mostly use light hammers which I hold
sufficiently loosely to avoid transmitting much shock to my wrist.
I use my chasing hammer in a similar way. 

You must use a relaxed wrist when hammering to avoid physical
damage. If you use a hammer the wrong way and with force you can
break your wrist. Same if planishing or chopping wood. Let the tool
do the work.



Hello Orchids,

I am writing a paper with the assistance of my massage therapist on
how working statically can affect the tendons in ones arms. This
paper will primarily address working with pulse arc welders and how
to avoid pain that may result from holding objects for long periods
of time. I will post the link when it’s finished.

Jeff Herman


Re ; Richard’s advice on hammering. Way way back in the old days
when carpenters used hammers instead of the air-powered guns they
use now to drive nails - way back then, I did a lot of hammering.
Yes indeed I did. I found it easiest to do what I described to
myself as “throwing” the hammer. That is, I’d get the head moving
and aimed at the right spot, impart a good deal of speed to the
head, and then in the instant before impact I’d relax my grip so
that upon impact I’d feel no shock. I thought of that as "throwing"
the hammer at the nail. And in the instant after impact the hammer
could bounce right back into my grip. I don’t know if I’m describing
it right because it’s been a long time since then. But avoiding that
instant of impact was important. Maybe that instant of free motion
by the hammer only lasted a few hundredths of a second, but that was
the trick. If you have to keep a hard grip on the handle right
through the impact then you’re not aiming right and what you’re
really trying to do with that tight grip is to avoid bending the
nail or to prevent the hammer head glancing off sideways. That’s
just bad aim. And you can’t “push” a nail into the wood by adding
your effort to the momentum of the hammer head. Like Richard said -
let the tool do the work, not your poor tendons. Forming metal on
stakes, anvils, sinking blocks, raising or sinking or planishing -
whatever - the same applies. Get the right speed and rhythm and
start using that “bounce back” from impact. Every tool combination,
depending on hardness of tool and material, the nature of your
anvil, the flexibility and spring in the handle - they all combine
to determine a natural frequency. If you can sense and latch onto
that then you’ve got it nailed (pun intended)…The hammer head has
to be moving at the right speed and direction before it makes
contact. You can’t, or shouldn’t be trying to make corrections
during the actual impact (I can’t anyway). This effect even applies
to pile-driving huge posts into the ground. The piles have a natural
frequency that governs the period of the shock wave passing down
their length into the earth. Find that frequency and stay on top of
it, the ground stays “alive” and the pile advances with every blow
Go too slow and the ground goes dead, settles around the piling and
you can’t go any further and will have a hell of a time getting the
pile back up to start over again. A long way from jewelry making, I
know, but dang it all, rhythm is not just for musicians - it
pervades all our work, especially with hammers.



I once went on a month long vacation was wonderful. but when I
returned I had to process a lot of wire on my manual rolling mill.
like 7 hours of it. When I stopped about a hour later I could not
lift a single sheet of paper ineither hand. Spent 3 years with
splints on my hands and in lots of pain. Inow always take shorter
vacations and use a electric rolling mill… :slight_smile:


I found a great resource when I sought to heal my left hand from
cramping and general movement. An online library of techniques
provided by a professional.

Hope it helps



thanx to all who wanted the Qigong manual. I have now done the
thesis in PDF so if any want it just email me and I will send it to
you. But it is academic.

If you need a “live” version I have it in Pages, you know get a Mac
get a life.

Zaijian (all the best and see you later)


I have been reading through this thread, and many of the suggestions
are valid. Evaluate your specific situation in relation to the
advice offered and test out one at a time, this may help in knowing
what works for you. Tingling does suggest nerve, cold hands and feet
may be Reynauds, this can be doctor diagnosed, I know of no “cure” I
use socks on my feet, and gloves when possible.

Acupuncture does address nerve issues and I personally love it. Try
to naturally relieve pain, popping over the counter “pain” relief
pills have serious long term effects, so try to gravitate away from
them. Read the label, yesterday I saw that Tylenol now has a Liver
damage warning label. This is not worth the temporary relief of

Use the stretches suggested, for hands and fingers, the Blue rubber
bands is an excellent suggestion. Taking breaks is mandatory. Try to
have several different projects going all the time, and do switch

Teresa Masters



Try to have several different projects going all the time, and do
switch regularly. 

This is what I do now. When younger I would do “production runs” of
the same piece. Now that just hurts. So if I need to make 5 of the
same ring now I make one at a time and as I have different
workstations for various tasks, keeps me moving around the workshop.

To make a reticulated ring:
I cut the shank
Take to soldering station and reticulate quench
Go back to bench and file.

Go to ring bender and round up. A $200 Pepe ring bender and it is
worth the money comes with metal and nylon? inserts. Bend all my
shanks in this to start.

Back to bench to do final alignment Go to solder station and solder
and pickle Think about cleaning bench, make a coffee instead LOL
Remove from pickle rinse in bicarb and water dry off Go to my "bash
the sht out of it station" 4 by 2 plank in vice with holes for
mandrels shove up mandrel and bash the sh
t out of it, I really like
that bit.

Go to sanding bench and sand smooth surfaces to 3000 grit scratch

All benches are within 15 feet of each other, moving from one to the
other changes my body position from seated to standing and back to

Then I make the next one.

If I made five at the same time I would be in pain. And my ADHD
would be screaming. When I started making jewellery I made bead
earrings only took a minute or two so the ADHD did not get the better
of me. When I started to learn silversmithing the fascination of it
all over came most of the ADHD.

I thought I had developed Aspergers, but my mates assured me I am
just a cranky old bastard, what a relief. LOL

Yes it takes a bit more time so I put my prices up to cover the
extra time.

If you only have one work station you are asking for physical
trouble unless you take breaks.