It Was Only a Matter of Time

Oh hey remember that time that I went to a doctor for wrist pain, and they diagnosed me with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Well. Artsy changed insurance at the end of August, so I had to find a new physiotherapist. I made an appointment with a new clinic because, while I made some progress, my wrists still hurt. I saw a doctor for an exam and they were… dubious of my diagnosis. They were especially surprised at how long I’d been on a physiotherapy regimen without feeling totally better.

Okay nerds: there’re two nerves that control the hands and relay sensory information back to the brain: the median nerve and the ulnar nerve. The median nerve goes through your carpal bones in your hand and when those bones compress the nerve, that’s carpal tunnel syndrome. This nerve connects to your thumb and your index, middle, and ring fingers. The ulnar nerve is the one exposed in your elbow as your “funny bone” and connects to your pinky and half your ring finger (the other half is the median nerve).

So they did an EMG to see what was up with my nerves. See, my symptoms are wrist pain and numbness in my pinky/ring fingers, so Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is kind of a weird diagnosis. The EMG confirmed that my nerve responses are fine, which is good news! I don’t actually have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

So what’s going on then? Turns out that, in concert with how all office furniture is too short for my 188cm stature, my bad posture was causing me to lean forward and apply pressure on the underside of my forearms. That’s where my ulnar nerve is. I’ve since noticed that I do this a lot, especially while typing. There is also some shoulder pain that is being referred down my nerve, so I feel wrist pain but the source of the pain is in my shoulders.

I wish I’d sought a second opinion earlier.

Since starting physiotherapy four weeks ago, the pain is gone from both wrists and the numbness is gone from my right hand (still working on the left, but it’s improving). The therapy has mostly concentrated on strengthening scapular muscles to help my posture.

So anyways. I was chatting with Orta on the walk home about all this, and how I’d felt left out of the Apple Watch hoorah since watches aggravate my wrist pain (and have for years). But since I’m making such great progress, maybe I’d look into getting an Apple Watch. He mentions that Artsy still has a first-generation test device, it’s at his apartment, and why don’t I come fetch it and say hello to his new puppy?

Obviously I said yes; the puppy alone makes it worth climbing three flights of stairs. But the point is, I tried out the Apple Watch for a while and I like it.

Some of you might remember that when the watch was first announced, I was… less than enthused. I’m still pretty skeptical, but whatever. It was no risk to me to try it out. If I didn’t like it, or if it started hurting my wrists, no problem: I give it back to Artsy to sit in a drawer forever.

So after upgrading the device to watchOS 4 (which was it’s own thing) I started wearing it. Not many of the apps I used have watchOS extensions, but I found the built-in support for Activity and stuff pretty cool! I like getting more in-depth data about myself and the gentle encouragement throughout the day was really nice. I also re-enabled some iOS push notifications so I’d have an excuse to use it more, to give it a fair chance.

I was pretty happy with the first-gen watch but I could definitely see it strain under the weight of, well, of anything. And I discovered that I need to wear it on my right wrist, at least for now, because my left one is still recovering and the watch irritated it. I also discovered I’d been wearing wristwatches wrong my whole life:

Folks on Twitter told me to get a contemporary model but I wanted to get a feel for it first. Well I finally did get one of my own, a Series 3 (without cellular, you monsters), and it’s great! A knockoff watchband from Amazon helped it look snazzy and provide more granular adjustments, which I really like.

The upgrade from first-gen to Series 3 is… well it’s quite a leap. UI transitions that I didn’t think were animated on the old device were actually just really, really laggy. So the new one is a big improvement! I like it.

My only problem has been the dearth of apps for the Apple Watch, even a few years on. The apps that do have watchOS extensions are hit-or-miss. OmniFocus is probably a perfect example of an extension done well: a thoughtful subset of functionality with an easy UI. Other apps, like Airmail, go all-in on feature parity with their iOS apps, which is a bit excessive in my opinion. And some apps, like Tweetbot, offer a kind of in-between where the functionality is limited but in ways I don’t agree with. So who knows.

There are some games even designed specifically with the watch in mind, like Pocket Bandit where you use the digital crown and haptic feedback to crack open locked safes. And there are some that take advantage of how infrequently/briefly users check their watches, like Lifeline. I’m on the lookout for more of these.

Getting a watch has also stirred within me something I haven’t felt towards native apps for a long time: a desire to build something new and the resulting search for a good idea.

The search continues.

So it may have been premature for me to dump on the watch (oops). But I get the impression that the hardware and software are still not really reaching their full potential. I’d say it’s similar to the iPhone 3GS in that regard: getting closer, but still a ways off from what it could be. What it should be. I’m looking forward to seeing how the device and ecosystem evolve.

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