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cake decorating/repetitive motion injury


McDuff
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I spend most of my time at work, for the last year now, decorating cakes and my left arm is about to fall off. Anybody else have a problem with possible repetitive motion injury? Yesterday I raised my arm to flatten the top of a cake and it hurt all the way up to and it felt like around the socket the top of my arm bone rotates in. It hurts to even heft the clicker up tonight to find something interesting in the wasteland of tv. i use fairly long narrow spatulas. Maybe I could use a lower bench, short spatula, do the sides with a bag with a huge tip. I don't know. On days when I'm just filling the freezer I'll do upwards of 80-90 cakes. That's not often. I usually do what I need for the next three or four days, and that can be 30 cakes finished.

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Hey McDuff.....long time no see!

Welcome to the Cake Decorators Repetitive Motion Injury Club.

I've had both hands under the knife for Carpal Tunnel work, and now my arm hurts,

EXACTLY the same way yours does. I cannot lift up my left arm above my shoulder,

or reach back with it without a lot of pain. My doc determined I have osteoarthritis

in that shoulder, as I do at the base of both of my thumb joints. Getting old in the pastry

biz ain't no fun at all.

I suspect you are a bit younger than I, and maybe doing what you're doing less time than

I have been.....so there could still be hope for you.

One, take some anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen.

Two, do range-of-motion shoulder exercises, like big arm circles, and other arm exercises

that will help you stretch out and be flexible. I'm just a pastry chef, not a personal trainer,

so I couldn't tell you exactly which exercises would be best.

It's always more dangerous to your body when you are doing the same motions day after day.

Perhaps it would be possible for you to trade off cake decorating duties with a co-worker so

you can do other tasks to rest your arms?

It can be beneficial to change some things such as table height, turntable height, using a different spatula, icing the sides up with a large wide tip and a bag.......anything you can do to "change up" your routine will rest at least some of the muscles and joints you are using in your work.

Hope that helps.....

Cheers......Annie

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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Try acupuncture for pain management, and massage to help breakdown the adhesions. I've had tendinitis in both elbows, and carpal-tunnel in both wrists since 2002, and those have been the most helpful treatments (aside from resting my arms, but that's near impossible to do in my job, and in yours). I really didn't want to go down the road of injections and such, as my mother has done, but you really should start treatment sooner rather than later.

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I had bad tendonitis from shaking frying pans for all those many years and acupuncture pretty much cured it. Maybe I'll look into that.

"I suspect you are a bit younger than I" Possibly not. I'm almost 58, but like Frank Sinatra says, "In my mind, I'm 28."

Wish we had live chat here. Jackal10 is cruising the boards right now.

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I decorated for a long time but I never got injured from that. Good strong Polish stock. I always kept my wrist turned into my arm when I decorated. Oh but for sure there's the nights when the hot heat in my hand traveled up my arm toward my elbow but no inflamation occured. I mean like after 15 hour shifts straight decorating, no icing. Then, years later I developed a nasty tennis elbow from heavy duty computer mousing, pouring over financial records while frustrated merchants chewed on me.

Anyhow, nothing was fixing my elbow. I mean I learned how to mouse with my other hand and still do. But that still didn't fix the damage. So I started icing my arm down every night. Massaging ice into my injured arm for a few minutes right before bed. This draws the blood to the injured area--the life of the flesh is in the blood. The blood did it's thing overnight! Took a few weeks.

Then in the morning I did some simple stretching where I put my forearm on the counter top and pulled the back of my hand up at the wrist. Dude, the pain went away. I mean I had been on steroids and stuff and nothing worked. Ice and me own blood/body fixed me up. I still have an easy weakness there but it doesn't hurt.

I worked for a lady who burnt out her hand down to the nerves, got surgery, did acupuncture, and never changed how she decorated and shortly came to have to sell her business. She never wised up. She gave her arm for her livlihood and it didn't matter she lost it anyway. I love my limbs more than a business. du-uh

For my purpose, I learned that once I became injured in that way, the injury could be quieted but there was no going back unless I learned to it differently. If you do it the exact same way, I think the exact same injury will prevail over you. And get worse of course.

That's what worked for moi. Ice.

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McDuff.....you're 58! Holy cow, and all this time I thought you were a wise-ass whippersnapper. :laugh::laugh:

Funny how you visualize people from the way they write! I don't dare ask anyone what *I* look like........ :laugh:

Anyway, since you mentioned acupuncture, I have a mind to try it too......My 82 year old Mom swears by it and she's an old-fashioned skeptic.

One thing K8 says is so true......even if you get surgery and drugs and treatment for whatever ails you, if you keep doing the same thing the same way, the injury just never goes away. I can certainly attest to that. Problem is, I don't know how to change anything I'm doing....... :unsure:

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I'm not a doctor, but I have trained professionally in massage therapy. In my experience I have found a lot of joint/arm pain is caused by tight muscles pinching nerves. It's easy to overuse certain muscles and set up this condition. You can check yourself by palpating (pressing/squeezing) your arm and shoulder muscles. If you find some rock hard bands of muscle, or pressing in certain places refers pain further down the arm (trigger points) you may well be suffering from this.

If so, the good news is you could get significant relief with regular massage therapy. The condition took some time to set up, so don't expect it to go away with one or two sessions. Muscles learn over time. If they are conditioned to be tight they will have a tendency to return to that state and you will need to retrain them.

You can do a lot of massage work on yourself, and a good tool like the Homedics Mini-Thumper can help you do that.

The trick is then to change how you work so that you don't overuse the muscles and return to the condition.

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The trick is then to change how you work so that you don't overuse the muscles and return to the condition.

I totally agree. When I was designing a book, my right finger extensor became quite sore from clicking.. I didn't want to experience that again, so I switched to a WACOM pen. Never looked back. Of course, it's not quite as simple wrt decorating, but it's good to look into treatment and prevention while it's still early. An occupational therapist should be able to help out heaps.

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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I spend most of my time at work, for the last year now, decorating cakes and my left arm is about to fall off. Anybody else have a problem with possible repetitive motion injury? Yesterday I raised my arm to flatten the top of a cake and it hurt all the way up to and it felt like around the socket the top of my arm bone rotates in. It hurts to even heft the clicker up tonight to find something interesting in the wasteland of tv. i use fairly long narrow spatulas. Maybe I could use a lower bench, short spatula, do the sides with a bag with a huge tip. I don't know. On days when I'm just filling the freezer I'll do upwards of 80-90 cakes. That's not often. I usually do what I need for the next three or four days, and that can be 30 cakes finished.

It sounds like a good deal of your problem stems from raising your arm fairly high and keeping it there for some time. A related problem for IT workers is holding the shoulder high while typing or using a mouse. Another big cause is raising the shoulder to pinch a telephone reciever to work "hands free". The muscles involved aren't used to this sort of work and "splint up". It doesn't even require repetitive motion, just holding this position for a long time will do it. The joint wasn't designed for this and the small muscles tighten up in self defense.

You first want to verify with your doctor that there isn't any actual joint damage or inflamation. If the doctor can't identify an obvious medical condition for your pain it very likely will stem from tight muscles. The most familiar sensation of tight muscles is general soreness, but sharp pain (sometimes felt far down the arm from the tight spot) is quite possible. I have pressed on a trigger point on the upper arm and elicted sharp pain in the elbow and wrist.

MD's often perscribe muscle relaxants when they can't find any other reason for the pain, and while it generaly isn't enough to take care of the problem it is on the right track.

My father had his ulnar nerve relocated with surgery due to constant pain that developed after an afternoon of heavy erasing on a drafting board. That resulted in adhesions which just added to the trouble, and the original problem wasn't solved. I started working on his arm after all this and was able to effect dramatic improvment over a few weeks by relaxing the rock hard muscles through deep thereputic massage. Since then I've had success with "keyboard shoulder" and "phone shoulder". With the emphesis on sugery or drugs the act of simply getting into the muscles and manually manipulating them to relaxation is most often overlooked. This is a shame because it's a simple and side effect free method of getting relief. I'd say it also gets down to the root cause, but that's really the motion that caused the muscle problem in the first place and the solution to the root problem is proper ergonimics.

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Another thing that helps me is wearing wrist braces when I sleep. It's a cheap, non invasive treatment that's really worth trying. When I was really bad, I wore them when I was awake as well - hard to do when you're at work as you lose mobility and have to wear gloves over them, but for the rest of the waking hours it does help.

Of course you have to put up with people's stupid comments like "Where's the bowling tournament?" and stuff like that. Never comes across as funny to me when I'm in agony.

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Yet another approach related to loosening the muscles is yoga. One particular pose, Half Locust: http://www.bikram-yoga-noosa-australia.com...Salabhasana.htm is performed by rotating your arms so that the palms are facing out and then lying on top of them. OUCH. BUT, it really, really does help loosen up all of the muscles in the arms and shoulders. Of course, this is just one of hundreds of poses that may help.

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check too for possible rotator cuff injury...there are different exercises to stretch and strengthen that particular area (of the shoulder).

i had tendinitis/tendonitis/carpal tunnel (can't decide which one is right) in my wrists from lifting sheet pans (one handed, trying to be macho). went to the doctor and without telling me what they were doing they injected me with cortisone. of course the pain went away and i made an effort from then on to use both hands when possible. that was ten years ago and it has returned with a vengeance in my left hand (my dominant hand). now that i'm home with a newborn, wearing a brace just isn't possible (not even at night :hmmm: ). i'm wondering how bad the cortisone is...not like i'm going to become a professional athlete!

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Thanks for all the helpful responses. Yesterday I tried a lower bench and a shorter icing spatula, but I was distracted because it wasn't my normal work space, and I'm nothing if not territorial. Don't move MY cheese.

today I tried a big tip in a bag and it worked all right. I didn't have to lift my arm up at all and came home with about the same degree of discomfort I took to work with me.

I have a big knot on the upper outer aspect of my left elbow. For the last couple of years I've been having parasthesia in both hands, almost to the point where it was 24/7. Really annoying. At first I thought it was being caused by wearing suspenders, so I stopped wearing them and there was no change. Then I stopped using aspartame and it diminished greatly. That's about 6 weeks now. I am aware of a lot, and I mean a lot, of muscle tightness around my whole body. So maybe there is something to David J.'s comments.

If chefpeon is seeing something in the way I write that leads her to believe I'm younger than I am, I'm sure it's a couple of my archetypes showing themselves....The Smart-Ass and the Know-It-All. They're the muses for The Failed Writer.

I spend time at work amusing myself by making in my head what I call the "Earthy Crunchy Groceria Movie" (names disguised to protect the innocent.) People typically do things to include themselves in this imaginary movie. People are always asking me what my scene is and I had no answer till the other day when a team from another store was visiting and I was scaling cornbread batter into a sheetpan with a frame and it slipped off the scale and slopped all over me, the flour bins, and the flour. I thought "there's my scene. They're looking in here and thinking, That's him? the big important pastry chef? He's an effing slob!"

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I am aware of a lot, and I mean a lot, of muscle tightness around my whole body.

Do yourself a favor and find a massage therapist who does thereputic massage/deep tissue work. You might even consider Rolfing. There many types of massage therapy, but I'm a proponent of getting in and working deep to release tension.

You are likely not aware how much energy is drained just keeping those muscles tight, and how inefficient it is to fight them in everday movement. One side tightens up, say the biceps, and then the other (triceps) is constantly pulled and starts to tighten up in response (and the triceps is likely the side that hurts the most even though it's not the root cause). If your body is mechanically relaxed you should be able to work longer with less pain and exhaustion. The concept is so simple that I find it difficult to understand how ignored it is. Massage is widely considered a fluff/light relaxation or luxury item rather than a valuable therapy for certain conditions. Perhaps it is the result of it not coming in a pill or injection and therfore not pushed by the drug companies.

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I am aware of a lot, and I mean a lot, of muscle tightness around my whole body.

Do yourself a favor and find a massage therapist who does thereputic massage/deep tissue work. You might even consider Rolfing. There many types of massage therapy, but I'm a proponent of getting in and working deep to release tension.

Ditto. Deep tissue is great, especially for people who have chronically tight muscles. I get shiatsu treatments, with occasional acupuncture, and they've been working as well as deep tissue did.

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