So after being stuck with carpal tunnel syndrome for over a year, I’m finally getting surgery for it in a couple weeks. It took nearly a year just to get diagnosed and schedule the surgery.
For anyone working as a game artist, you should be as careful as possible to avoid getting it yourself. If I were actually relying on my art work for a living, I’d have been completely screwed.
I think my case was a rare outlier, taking as long as it did to get treatment. But even under the best circumstances, you could be unable to create art for several months.
Having struggled with it for as long as I now have, I have a lot of experience with it, and I’ve studied up on it quite a bit in order to keep it under control and avoid it in the future.
If you don’t want to gamble your career on this mess, then I have some advice below.
You really just need to be careful about posture/ergonomics, and take a break to stretch every hour or so.
As a rule of thumb, if you start feeling sore or numb anywhere, then you’re doing something wrong. Either you’re using bad posture, or you aren’t taking enough breaks.
I’ll give some more detailed advice, though.
Always sit up straight, arms down, elbows bent 90 degrees, straight wrists. Having your desk too high or low relative to your chair can be a huge issue. You shouldn’t have to twist your arms to the side, either. Everything should be centered.
Don’t rest your elbows on your desk, or use a chair with hard arm rests. This won’t actually cause carpal tunnel syndrome, but can cause other issues like cubital tunnel syndrome or lateral epicondylitis, which are similarly debilitating.
Slouching is a really common issue which causes you to bend your elbows too much, and can easily lead to big problems. It can also cause you to lean your elbows hard against your armrests, which can lead to the same issues as above.
A tablet is also better for you than a mouse, so use that as often as possible. The stylus is lighter than a mouse, it doesn’t force you to twist your wrist in, and it doesn’t force you to stress your hand by constantly clicking.
Maya is set up to allow the use of a stylus very effectively, that being the main area a lot of artists would probably choose to use a mouse.
Not only does the right-click marking menu focused interface work well with a tablet, but it’s also programmed to let you use touch input on a tablet to manipulate the camera.
Keep your tablet centered though. If you place it awkwardly so that you have to bend at an odd angle or stretch to reach it, then that just makes it even worse than a mouse.
Most people probably just place the tablet in front of the keyboard/mouse on a single surface desk, or above them on a desk with a keyboard shelf. I’d say the shelf is more ideal, since you won’t have to stretch to reach the keyboard or mouse. But you will want to prop the tablet at an angle and keep it close to the edge. A tablet stand built for large iOS/android tablets will work for this, but make sure it’s sturdy enough to let you press on it without collapsing. Cintiq type tablets usually come with their own stand built in.
Ideally, I’d recommend getting a mounting arm. You can get one for around $100 off of Amazon pretty easily. A Cintiq type tablet can mount directly on it, but other tablets without a visa connection will need a laptop stand attached to the mount. An arm mount will let you get the ideal position for the tablet without getting in the way of the keyboard or mouse.
If you’re like me and you have to work a day job to pay your bills, then don’t underestimate the potential for that to cause issues as well. Anything that puts a lot of stress on your hands or arms can be a problem. And not just working with a keyboard and mouse. My own problem was caused mostly by unloading trucks eight hours a day.
That’s all the advice I really have. If you think you actually do you have carpal tunnel syndrome or anything similar, then you should see a doctor immediately. You don’t want to have it any longer than necessary, and you definitely don’t want to end up making it worse.