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American Sign Language: "ASL and Arthritis"



Dr. Bill,
You mention many times on your website to pick a dominant hand and go with it for signing one handed things. I have arthritis in my dominant hand and some days have to fingerspell with the other- is it better to  retrain that hand to spell more efficiently or switch to it only on bad days?
~Laurie Dalzell


Dear Laurie,
1. Do both. Retrain your hand to spell more efficiently -- and only switch to it on bad days. :)  It is up to you. Not a big deal either way.  I recommend though that you don't switch back and forth during the same conversation (unless you "have to") because that would become a distraction.  If it is a matter of switching back and forth or not communicating, then by all means communicate in whatever fashion works for you.

2. The real issue here is your arthritis. Are you aggressively fighting your arthritis? Ask yourself:
- Have you read at least 10 evidence-based (fairly recent) books on the topic?
- Have you invested in a paraffin wax bath for your hands?
- Do you stretch your hands in careful but deliberate ways that extend the muscles and ligaments?
- Do you "eat the rainbow" (a wide variety of healthy fruits and vegetables?
- Are you taking glucosamine?
- Have you looked into getting a rechargeable hand-warmer?
- Are you taking fish oil and/or flax seed oil? (Or some other source of eicosapentaenoic acid?)
- Are you working up a sweat at least three times a week? I mean breathing hard and actually breaking into (at least) a mild sweat?

I know you didn't write me for health advice, but perhaps the real answer to your problem is to solve your arthritis issue. Note: My doctorate is in Education, NOT in medicine, so, if I had a lawyer I'm sure he'd tell me to tell you that you'd best check with your medical doctor before starting any diet or exercise program, immersing your hands into wax, or taking any supplement that might conflict with current medications.
Warm regards,
- Dr. Bill

p.s. Doing ASL is generally considered therapeutic for arthritis because it promotes circulation and movement.  You might want to check into the possibility of having your doctor "prescribe" your ASL classes--thus enabling you to deduct the cost of your classes, books, and travel as medical expenses.  Ask your "tax advisor" about this.


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