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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

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Occupational Hazards

As a physicist, it is easy to imagine that the majority of our occupational hazards can be prevented with good safety practice. We all go through extensive training regarding radiation, cryogenics, lasers, heavy equipment, electricity, power tools, ladders, and even computer use. I’ve found myself a victim of one of those tragedies that often afflicts my profession: chronic wrist pain.

I do not have a simple RSI like Carpal Tunnel. I did something bad to it when machining a few years ago, which was aggravated by how I was carrying my bike up and down stairs. Soon I found myself having difficulty doing dishes and getting dressed. So I saw a doctor, took some ibuprofen, and kept my wrist in a brace during any significant lifting. Of course, this is my dominant hand I injured.

Eventually the pain stopped, but reoccurred after a few months. It was re-triggered by torquing my wrist too far back. The pattern repeated for a while with the latest occurrence beginning about 2 weeks ago. Now it has even begun to hurt when typing, so I revisited the clinic (where I was given a totally different diagnosis) and began physical therapy. Of course, this injury now coincides with the preparation of a talk and the writing of a paper, so typing is not something I can currently avoid.

Tomorrow I leave for Canada for the second EXO Collaboration meeting of the year. I’m quite excited to visit SNOLab and to give my wrist a chance to heal some. When I’m a work I’m either lifting things or typing, so a week of talks will be a welcome break. While I could be tempted to update documentation during the talks, I have a great excuse to close the laptop lid and not multi-task: another occupational hazard!

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