PAIDE banner

RIDEr from the West

← Previous | Next →

Taking Care of Ourselves

Hello RIDE members!

Please accept my Holiday greetings and Happy New Year wishes to all of you from me and my family!

I had a 4 day whirlwind trip to Manila recently in November. I sure wish I had the time to meet all of you for a short session, but this trip was for family business, and alas, was unable to squeeze the time. I did enjoy a chance to visit with Sir Jun, Letty Uy and Michael Potian. I did some holiday shopping, visited several Malls, including SM Bicutan and Divisoria Mall. We also went to "The Fort" where we were fortunate enough to have a couple of celebrity sightings. We saw Gelli de Belen doing a bit of Christmas shopping with us at the craft booths as well as action star Raymart Santiago heading into a restaurant assumingly for a bite to eat.

The Christmas Season has been such a blur of activity. Between working overtime so others could take their vacations and shopping for 3 boys and I've hardly had time to sleep. So along those lines, the topic of my article this issue is: "Taking care of yourself"

All too often, we interpreters work hard at a job we love. It's almost always a labor of love, especially with such a shortage of skilled interpreters and not enough to spread around. We may be working ourselves to the bone…but all too often feel it the next morning.

We find ourselves taking ibuprofen, of some other anti-inflammatory for swelling, wearing wrist or elbow braces to bed, soaking arms in hot water or wax baths, and rubbing muscle balms and creams into our sore hands, arms and shoulders . Begging our loved ones for an arm massages, and avoiding things that might cause more pain or stress such as bowling or playing a favorite instrument.

The physical demands of interpreting are similar to that of a professional athlete. We need to stretch and warm up BEFORE we interpret…and take breaks accordingly.

"But the Deaf never seem to have a pain problem talking all day with their hands", you may ask.

That's not always true, I personally know of 10 Deaf that have had to have Carpal Tunnel surgery to repair damage to their wrists from over signing.

Here's a comparison:

A close friend years ago asked me, "Ken, do you get a sore throat from talking all day?" (Ha-Ha! Actually many hearing people have asked me that same question!)

I replied, "No, why do you ask?"

"Because after just 30 minutes of voice therapy my throat hurts so badly! How can you talk all day and your throat not hurt?"

I asked, "How can you sign all day and your arms not hurt? I sign an hour and my arms ache!"

When we chat in sign language with deaf folks, we are signing at our own pace and our own speed. We know what we want to say and we are relaxed, thus our signing is relaxed. We can chat for hours and never feel a bit of pain or tingling.

In contrast, when we are "interpreting", we are forced into the unnaturalness of someone else's pace. We are thinking: How do I sign this? What does that phrase mean? Did I just sign that correctly? Am I signing in a style that my client understands me? I am falling behind…just what can I delete and not lose any meaning so I may be able to catch up with the speaker? Etc…etc…etc…

All of this equate to stress. Stress that becomes our sore muscles in our hands arms and shoulders... Soreness in our backs and legs, and ultimately our brains. We often are forced to sign faster than our normal speech and in a bigger space. We tense up our shoulders and sign choppy and quick, causing more soreness and pain.

So while we are able to sign well, the stresses of interpreting often cause us to feel as if we've just performed 100 jumping jacks, and it's only been 20 minutes of a 2 hours lecture.

What can we do?

First of all, don‘t try to sign EVERYTHING. Learn to listen to the meaning of your interpretation and go for the meaning rather than word for word, there is no reason to sign a sentence of 10 words when one or two signs will do.

Second, perform preventative stretching; you can't run a marathon till you've stretched your legs a bit.

Stretch your wrists and arms by first extending your arm out with "B" hand at the end, with other hand gently pull back on the finger tips till you can feel the pressure, hold for about 10 seconds and repeat on the other hand. Do that a few times and then shake them out at your side. Next you can stretch by rotating your hands in all directions and applying pressure with the other hand in the process.

And third, learn to relax. Take the time and get the rest your body needs, don't overbook yourself and don't let clients abuse your kindness and willingness to keep working.

To address pain and injury, it happens to all of us eventually. If ever you feel the "burn" in your arms, STOP! Don't be a martyr and injure yourself further until you've gotten the appropriate treatment.

I'm not an advocate of pain pills, we should feel every tinge. A pain pill at night to help you sleep if you've injured yourself is acceptable, but it is my opinion that such pain numbing techniques can cause more harm than good and may cause more damage to yourself if you take something and then work with an injury.

Heat in the morning is good for stiffness, to help loosen up the muscles and joints. But if it's a pain and there is swelling, ice is the key. Place icepack on your injured area to stop swelling, and then heat to promote blood flow, repeat alternately with ice and heat every 20 minutes or so. By the way, swelling may not always be visible; the swelling could be inside the Carpal Tunnel pressing against the nerves. If you feel pain in your elbow or tingly down your arm to your little fingers, you have internal swelling.

Next month I will cover in greater detail the Carpal Tunnel Region of our arms and wrists and why it's so important for us to know how it all works and how to take care of it.

Until next time RIDE members!