Weak hands are a problematic MS symptom for a graduate student

Typing as much as I do worsens the struggles with my grip and fingers

Desiree Lama avatar

by Desiree Lama |

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As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I’m now pursuing a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Given that work, 99.9% of my day revolves around typing, despite my multiple sclerosis (MS).

My journey as a typist began in high school, when I enrolled in a Microsoft Office course that taught the fundamentals of the suite’s various parts. We were also taught typing techniques, including proper finger positions over a keyboard.

On many days, my friend and I finished our assignments quickly, which let us partake in typing games online. I don’t remember exactly what those games entailed (thank my MS brain for the lack of memory) beyond that they involved competitive speed typing. For bragging rights, the teacher would post a list of the fastest typists at the end of the week, which made me work extremely hard on my skills.

Even as an undergraduate student, I picked up my typing pace because my field required many essays. When taking notes, however, I sometimes had to switch to an old-fashioned pen and paper because I couldn’t keep up with the speed of the lectures.

Actually, I prefer pen and paper because it grants some of my fingers the opportunity to rest. When typing, I’m using all of my fingers at all times, which has begun to cause distress in my hands. Now that I’m a graduate student and columnist for Multiple Sclerosis News Today, though, I’m constantly typing, which has caused me discomfort and, I suspect, a decline in grip strength.

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Hand weakness and MS

Some of the common symptoms of MS that affect the hands are tremors, weakness, lessened grip strength, and wrist drop, which can be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and pain from mild to severe. These issues can make it increasingly difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as picking up objects, eating with utensils, or buttoning clothes.

Of the common hand symptoms, decline or loss of grip strength has been a prominent variant throughout my MS journey. Before finding the appropriate medication, I had a tremor in my right hand for a year or two. But as the days pass lately, my hands have felt increasingly weak and numb.

I can’t say for sure that my constant typing is the main contributor to my progressive hand weakness and numbness, but it sure doesn’t help the situation. Although this new symptom causes a considerable amount of discomfort, it hasn’t slowed down my typing much. But I do have to take prolonged breaks every so often.

When a new symptom arises, I typically head straight to Google and Multiple Sclerosis News Today social media platforms to search for strategies and remedies to find relief. During a recent search, I stumbled upon hand therapy equipment that’s supposed to improve or maintain hand function, reduce stiffness, and strengthen hand coordination.

This discovery is the beginning of my journey to improve every aspect of my hands and fingers’ function.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Daniel Stern avatar

Daniel Stern

Desiree, I just joined this forum today. My wife has progressing MS which has virtually eliminated her ability to write, and severely limited her ability to type (and to use her hands for many other activities of daily living). She now dictates emails and Word documents, which have their own frustrations, but these alternatives may be useful to you if typing is too fatiguing. Can you share any exercises or assistive devices you use to help with this problem?
thank you.

Desiree Lama avatar

Desiree Lama

I completely understand! Here is a link to one of the articles that I found discussing the benefits of hand therapy equipment and exercises: https://www.flintrehab.com/hand-therapy-exercises/

I hope this can help your wife! I am wishing you both the very best :)

Mike Purcell avatar

Mike Purcell

This is a problem for me. I've got to the point of not being able to use my arms very well. I've been mastering using voice control for my computer and my iPhone. I have not yet figured out how to control my phone completely (answering hanging up and pressing keys while on the phone call). If anyone can help with the recommendation I would appreciate it.

Desiree Lama avatar

Desiree Lama

I do believe that you can utilize Siri when you are wanting to answer and hang up a phone call. Here is a link to Apple support explaining how you can change the settings of Siri to best fit your accessibility needs: https://support.apple.com/en-au/guide/iphone/iphaff1d606/ios#:~:text=End%20calls%20with%20Siri,Requires%20download%20of%20speech%20models.

I hope this helps!

Gary Hendricks avatar

Gary Hendricks

I switched my mouse to my left hand early on as my right hand gets wonky late in the day as I get more fatigued.

My hand writing has gone to pot but I can still sign my name. Anytime I have to write something of any significance I head to a computer.

My right hand has problems with the keyboard but I fight through. I have had to be more conscientious about proof reading before I hit send.

I have started down the road of partial disability.

Desiree Lama avatar

Desiree Lama

Have you ever used speech to text to help with the hand issues that you experience?


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