The Truth About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Finding Answers, Getting Well

Carpal Tunnel cover

Writers, musicians, artists, hairdressers – in short, anyone who puts their hands, wrists and arms through the same repetitive motions to perform specific tasks are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.  While it’s currently the leading occupational illness in America and the most common cause of physical disability in the world, there’s a general misconception that if you simply wiggle your fingers, shake your hands, get a shoulder massage, or change your position, it will go away by itself. Not so. Author, speaker and accomplished screenwriter Jill Gambaro not only knows from personal experience that carpal tunnel symptoms should not be ignored but has also written a book that sheds light on how to keep them from impacting your quality of life.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with your diverse background as a writer – a dream job that calls for long hours sitting at a desk with fingers poised over a keyboard and eyes riveted on a computer monitor. At what point in your professional career did chronic pain rear its ugly head and cause you to seek a remedy?

A: It was during a day job actually. I was working as a temp, mostly in law offices, which was really a production typing job at the time. Typing 125 words a minute, seven hours a day is what caused my injury.

Q: I’m assuming that this was at a time when a lot less was known about the origins of this type of ailment?

A: Oh yes, water cooler wisdom at the time was that surgery with a three week recovery would fix the problem. It was only once I began receiving medical treatment that I discovered that was rarely the case.

Q: What sort of treatment regimen was used and how effective was it?

A: Physical therapy and bracing was and still is the recommended treatment. What they don’t tell you is that not all physical therapists understand how to treat these very complex injuries. What they call work hardening—strengthening muscles through weight lifting—is a rehabilitation philosophy that only aggravates repetitive strain injuries. Bracing also is controversial because lack of movement is just as bad as incorrect movement.

Q: Was any of this covered by insurance or was that, too, as yet uncharted medical territory?

A: Even though I was a temporary employee, legally, it was determined I was covered by workers’ compensation insurance. But that also meant I was the subject of a lawsuit on top of everything else. For the many who aren’t covered by insurance for such an injury, it can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing that you can get treatment; a curse that insurance often doesn’t pay for treatments that are effective.

Q: From both a physical and psychological standpoint, how did your injury and the aftermath affect your ability to write?

A: Psychologically, I have to write, there’s just no two ways about that. And, at a time when I was in the throes of so much emotional pressure, writing was really my best escape valve. Unfortunately, not being able to physically type or hold a pen, made that very challenging. I had a lot of success using voice recognition software and wound up finding a whole new freedom as a writer through its use.

Q: Were there any support groups available as a resource or did you sally forth and create your own?

A: Very soon after I became disabled I found the Los Angeles Repetitive Strain Injury Support Group. They were a godsend. Their monthly meetings with medical professionals provided hour-long lectures on clinical practice, theories and treatments. It was such a tremendous help I wound up on the board of directors. There are like groups all over the world, some meet physically, others offer a Q&A format on the web. The RSI community is very open about sharing. Through my blog, I try to pass on the information that comes out of these groups as much as I can.

Q: Unlike other injuries where there is some sort of visual evidence of pain, carpal tunnel hinges in large part on the afflicted person’s verbal description of what’s going on. In my own experience, I can recall no shortage of office incidents where an employee citing extreme discomfort was perceived to be whining just to get out of work. For someone who is genuinely hurting, how do these perceptions exacerbate the problem?

A: That’s a very good question. It is so hard to be in overwhelming pain, while those around you say you’re making it all up. It was only when a doctor gave me a diagram of the front and back body and a set of colored pencils, so that I could color my pain that I was able to effectively communicate what I was experiencing. That diagram is affectionately called pain man, and tools like that can really help.

Q: What inspired you to write this particular book?

A: The first half of the book is a layman’s explanation of the biological mechanisms that make repetitive strain injuries so difficult to treat. It’s meant as a guide to help people recover. But it’s really the second half of the book that I’m most passionate about. It describes RSIs from a larger, economic impact. The bottom line is, good information can help everyone—employers, workers, even insurance companies—save a lot of pain and money.

Q: Given the severity of your injuries, how did you approach the physical challenge of writing it?

A: While voice recognition software helped a lot, typing isn’t the only task in writing a book. I had to be very disciplined about pacing myself, so I drew up a schedule that wasn’t impossible to stick to. It included a lot of breaks and made room for all the differing tasks of writing a book: research, drafting, editing. I also made time to walk every day; walking helps keep the pain away from me.

Q: Along with sharing your own experience as well as your extensive research on the topic of carpal tunnel injuries, you’ve also become an outspoken advocate in the political arena to increase awareness. Tell us about it.

A: I like to say that I fought city hall and failed miserably. In the early 2000s, Arnold Schwarzenegger had just become the governor of California with reforming the workers’ compensation system as his first task. We at the Los Angeles Repetitive Strain Injury Support Group leapt at the opportunity to shape public policy, and while many listened to what we had to say with great interest, in the end, the big money won and the system became even worse. Once, I even flew up to Sacramento to speak at a press conference. My back hurt so badly, I had to kneel behind a table to speak. I had to stop several times to remember what I wanted to say. The whole thing was caught on tape by news outlets and, as a seasoned media professional, I was mortified. Then I received calls from other injured workers, thanking me for speaking out. It made me remember why I was doing it.

Q: What did your injuries teach you about yourself as both an individual and as a member/leader of a creative community of fellow wordsmiths?

A: The injury did teach me a lot. My healthcare practitioners kept telling me throughout, “you’ll get through this better than most”. I hung on their every word, believing it was my tenacity they saw. In retrospect, it was the powerful sense of mission that got me through. Writers, I believe, are society’s therapists. It’s up to us, whether journalists, humorists or screenwriters, to analyze, critique and give feedback to the world at large.

Q: How is writing nonfiction different from writing screenplays?

A: Well, it’s very different, and not different at all. Screenplays are first and foremost about structure, but then you layer character and mood on top. You’re also telling a story, through pictures, using words. Non-fiction is supposed to be more straightforward than that, but I found in writing the book, that’s not entirely true. I struggled with some of my conclusions in the last few chapters of the book just as much as I would struggle to tie up a plot in a script.

Q: Tell us about your path to getting this title published.

A: It took 12 years to get the book published. Initially, I found a lot of interest among agents in the title, but they couldn’t place it with any publisher. Then, serendipitously after sitting on the shelf for several years, I met a fellow writer who thought her own publisher might be interested. They weren’t but they encouraged me to find a smaller house. I credit my experience as a producer, looking at the project as a business venture, for my success. I only queried two other publishers, both of whom asked for the manuscript off a cold query. The second one offered me a publishing deal within 30 days.

Q: Was self-publishing ever an option for you?

A: I seriously considered self-publishing but knew there were other patients who had written about their experiences, and never reached the audience. In the end, I thought Rowman & Littlefield’s academic reputation would lend a credence that self-publishing would not. Financial considerations got sacrificed in the process, but I’m hoping to make that up down the road through foreign sales.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I’m a wimpy patient. I like the kind of doctors who are warm and have a caring touch. I was the squeaky wheel who got the grease, but often through tears.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I’m so inspired when others achieve that special spark in their work. It doesn’t matter if they’re writers or doctors or auto mechanics. When someone is passionate about what they do and pushes himself or herself to reach their best potential it makes me want to push myself.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m bringing my visual storytelling skills to bear on the prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome. Musicians get it at an alarming rate but largely have to hide their pain. A little awareness would go a long way so I’m looking for brand partners to launch an advertising campaign.

Q: Where can our readers learn more about you?

A: Set a Google alert! You can follow me on truthaboutcarpaltunnelsyndrome.blogspot.com and LinkedIn, where I blog regularly. On Facebook.com/truthaboutcarpaltunnelsyndrome and @JillGambaro.

A Conversation With Sunil Godse

Sunil two book logo (1)

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Canadian writer and extremely successful business consultant Sunil Godse at the launch for his first book, Fail Fast, Succeed Faster. Sunil has long counselled others about the importance of accepting, and even embracing failure and gut intuition. He claims we are so busy touting the goal of success that we forget about the values and lessons learned through failure and our ability to tap into our intuition as a method of sound decision-making and growth. With his new book, Gut, available now, Sunil travels the globe talking to groups about his books and what he’s learned about these two vital aspects of life. Welcome Sunil!

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q         What is the premise behind Fail Fast, Succeed Faster?

A         The premise is very simple. By learning from the failures of others, or even better, by being prepared to overcome your own hurdles, you should be able to reach success much faster in whatever you do.

Q         In preparation for this book, you interviewed many people, including some very prestigious business men and women. What is the thing that surprised you the most about the disclosures, and why?

A         What surprised me the most was how quick these prestigious interviewees were in giving me an interview despite their very busy and hectic schedules. On top of that, they were so eager to share their negative experiences. This was so surprising because I thought that they would have been afraid to reveal some of the weaker moments in their personal and professional lives, some which led to drastic financial losses and in one case, a bankruptcy. I am so pleased that this was not the case.

Q         What life lesson has been the most difficult for you to learn, and why?

A         The hardest life lesson for me is in prying myself away from the professional arena to spend more personal time with my family. It sounds like a cliché, but what I have learned over the years is that when you are doing what you love, then there is no such thing as a work/life balance. What I need to learn is to make sure I swing the pendulum a bit in the direction of having quality time with my family; given all of the projects I seem to dip my fingers into. It is a constant battle for me, as I need to trade off doing what I love professionally for loving moments with my family. What I have realised in the past few years is that what remains for a long time after you are gone are memories of times together with friends and family, not the accomplishments you achieve as life passes you by.

Q         Why did you want to write a book about failure?

A         I have made a career of helping people and businesses overcome their failures. I am also very aware of the incredible statistic that over 90% of small businesses fail within the first two years, which is ridiculously high in my opinion. People want to run a business for various reasons, but don’t always understand what it takes to run an actual business. For example, someone may love cooking and know how to cook exquisite and tasty meals, but running a restaurant business means that one needs to think about things such as financing, pricing, food wastage percentage, marketing, presentation, logistics, staffing, wastage, and many other issues not related to the actual cooking of the food. Without this knowledge, or having partners who have this knowledge, the business faces a steep uphill battle from the moment the doors open for customers. I know this first hand, as I ran a Mexican restaurant with other shareholders for over two years without knowing anything about cooking tacos. This is because I ran the restaurant as a business and left the cooking to chefs and sous chefs. As a result, the business was profitable from the first day we opened.

Specifically writing a book about failure came about as I saw a real need to educate those looking to get into business. With blogs, articles, and some research articles here and there, it became clear there was no single reference to outline some of the common mistakes entrepreneurs and business people make along the way. So, like a good business idea, I found a problem that people were willing to pay me to solve! That is how Fail Fast. Succeed Faster. was conceived.

Q         In your second book, Gut, you address the issues of trusting your instincts, or “your gut”. Can you give us an example of when you either did or didn’t trust your instinct that resulted in a life-changing outcome?

A         Launching my consulting career was solely based on intuition. Despite graduating with an engineering degree, my intuition “told me” to leverage my degree and help companies find operational efficiencies. I approached one company and told them that they only needed to compensate me if I found annual savings. So, if I found nothing, I made nothing.

In three months, I found $90,000 in savings and this was my first successful consulting paycheque. This changed my life and propelled me to start my entrepreneurial career running a restaurant, a wholesale clothing company, a retail clothing company, and a Mexican restaurant. This experience also gave me the opportunity to consult for other companies.

In addition, I regularly use my intuition when it comes to solving problems for my clients. With some time needed to educate myself on the circumstances that led to the problem, I usually know what the solution is. The rest of the time is implementing the solution to the problem.

For example, there was a company that was in trouble despite having a very strong business model. After some investigation, my intuition was to regain the trust of the employees, which they had not had from current management, and utilize basic policies and procedures to help sustain the growth of the business model. These, combined with the regained trust, allowed me to help grow the company from $300,000 to $2.5million in 2 years. These consulting wins are also life-changing, as they lead to other larger consulting opportunities which I may not have been able to reach.

Q         What has surprised you the most during your writing journey thus far, and why?

A         What has really surprised me is that I continually meet people who, after they read my book, attend one of my speaking engagements, or meet me, openly share their stories of learning from failure,  trusting, or not trusting their intuition. Everyone has a story to share, which I find absolutely fascinating.

A recent example is when I was in Stockholm talking to a crowd of over 200 people at a conference about intuition. A woman approached me after my talk and told me that her intuition spoke to her in a dream, telling her that her husband was planning to leave her. She had absolutely no clue that this was happening. After making a few phone calls, she discovered that her husband was in fact surreptitiously trying to sever his relationship with her and their children. She quickly began protecting her assets, which she said was “in the millions of dollars”. She specifically told me that had she ignored her intuition, she would be penniless and homeless today. I was stunned to hear this.

Q         You already operate a very successful business consulting firm, Radical Solutions Group. Why take on the myriad challenges of writing a book?

A         Being a serial entrepreneur and business consultant, I have been surprised by the lack of knowledge in the entrepreneurial process and the sheer dedication needed in taking a seed of an idea and turning it into a viable business. As mentioned before, something needed to be done to help educate those looking to start a business regarding the potential hurdles they might face right from the start.

With this thought in mind, I went through my rolodex to begin the process of interviewing people of interest. The rest is history, so they say!

Q         Where do you see the opportunities for people to tap into their intuition and utilize it more successfully in their personal and business lives?

A         People really need to take a step back from their extremely busy lives and take the time and opportunity to discover how to trust their intuition more efficiently. Put very simply, they need to listen to their intuition and take the steps to overcome the hurdles that curtail their intuitive abilities. Having clients overcome these intuitive hurdles is something I have been doing regularly for both my coaching and consulting clients with great success.

Q         Do you have a few strategies to share with our readers for moving beyond failure and into success?

A         The first thing people need to do is to redefine failure. Failure is an end state. I suggest people call the failures what they are; mistakes. They can then change their focus to find out what hurdles were encountered when making those mistakes. Finally, they can use their intuition to overcome those hurdles, or avoid them completely the next time they get in that same situation. If they can do these steps, success is a few short steps away.

Q         What do your family and friends think about your new writing and public speaking career?

A         My family fully supports the decision, as they see the passion I have for this new-found career. They have also seen the successful results from those who have used my services. Many of their friends and colleagues have heard of the book or my media appearances and have wished me luck through my family members. My family often tell me how proud they feel when they talk about me or my accomplishments. That really puts icing on the cake for me!

Q         Could you explain why you chose to self-publish rather than traditionally publish your books?

A         I had spoken to a lot of people about the book writing business before I even started thinking of putting a book together using the same process as any business venture I might get into. In the end, the book and the other aspects of publishing a book, such as conference organization and speaking engagements, had to have a good return on investment. Given the economic realities of the publishing industry and knowing how I wanted to market the book and my speaking opportunities, the control had to be on my side. This meant that self-publishing was the best route for me to go.

Q         What’s next for you Sunil?

A         I am continuing to speak, run conferences, and coach both personal and professional clients. I am also mentoring a number of entrepreneurs and have a wonderful family who keep me sane. This means I’m extremely busy, but I am so fortunate to be doing what I want and love to do.

Learn more and connect with Sunil Godse here:

Twitter: @sunilgodse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SunilGodseAuthor

LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/sunilgodse

New website!: www.sunilgodse.com

Radical Solutions Group Inc.: www.radicalsolutionsgroup.com