Overworking My Middle Finger

There is this ache deep in my left forearm that radiates from just below the elbow all the way to the middle finger. It has been bugging me for the past couple of years. It aches every time I move my forearm. Massaging has not worked.

I thought it was age-related. At my age, body aches are nothing out of the ordinary. My shoulders and right knee occasionally ache too, usually a day or two before a rainstorm. I am that accurate when it comes to predicting when rain will fall!

The discomfort is especially bad today. Although it does not restrict the already limited function of my hand, the constant aching is disconcerting. I have to stop every now and then to massage the spot although I know that will not bring any relief at all. And then realisation struck when I saw how I was handling the mouse.

Using the mouse with my left hand
Using the mouse with the left hand.

My right hand is clawed. None of the fingers have the dexterity to depress the mouse buttons. My left hand is more functional. I use it more than my right hand although I am right handed. I have been using my left hand to operate the mouse since I got a PC that ran on Windows 3.1 back in 1993.

I click the mouse buttons with the middle finger of my left hand. That finger has a limited range of movement but that is the only finger I can use on the mouse because I have most control over it. Even then, it takes a some wrist movements and a little more effort from the finger to depress the buttons. Using the scroll wheel is easier. I place my finger on the wheel and flex or extend my wrist to roll it.

After 17 years of the same movements day in and day out, I guess something has to give. I must have caused repetitive strain injury (RSI) to the flexor muscle of the left arm. Come to think of it, the constant twitching of the thumb, index and little fingers could be related to RSI also. They twitch non-stop whenever my hands are relaxed.

Perhaps I should revert to the touchpad instead. I seldom use it because I needed two hands for functions like dragging a file from one folder to another when I could accomplish that with just one hand using the mouse.

Or maybe I should rub some of my Ah Mah’s hong eu to the ache. The reasons that are holding me back are the greasiness, the stains and the odour it leaves behind on anything it comes into contact with. Otherwise, I swear by its efficacy to relieve bodily aches and pains from the effects of hong sip (rheumatism), strained muscles and minor sprains.

I Know I Am Old When…

I cannot but have to admit that I am getting on in age. Every now and then my will body ache. I am currently experiencing a deep numb pain in the back of my left shoulder. It cannot be pinpointed to a specific spot and is causing me much discomfort for the past hour. Old people call it hong sip or fung sup, meaning wind and dampness.

This malady is attributed to wind and dampness getting into the body from constant contact with water, especially the from the habit of bathing after sunset. The other causes are believed to be contributed by injuries such as sprains that are left untreated and not adhering to taboos during confinement for women.

I am not aware if there is a cure for this as I have been living with it for as long as I can remember. My bad right knee also acts up like this once in a while. The only temporary relief that I can get is by massaging the aching spots with with hong eu that my paternal grandmother used to make and sell. She was a midwife back in the middle of the last century. Grandma passed away in the early 1980s when she was in her eighties. Sixth uncle took over the production after she passed away. Now that uncle has also passed away. I do not know where else I can get it.

Hong eu means wind oil. It is believed to dispel wind and dampness from the body. This is accomplished by massaging it onto the aching spots. The body part is then kept warm with bandages. Grandma used to have this huge kuali outside her house for making the hong eu. She would buy fresh and dried herbs and simmered it in coconut oil for several days until the concoction became thick and dark like soya sauce. It was then bottled and sold in sundry shops and Chinese medical halls all over Penang. The label pasted on the bottle had a pink background with the logo of a one-humped camel. The blue-coloured Chinese characters indicated what it could be used for.

Grandma’s hong eu worked. I can vouch for it. It had eased the aches on my bad knee many times. However, its coconut oil base made it greasy. Anything that came into contact with it became greasy too. That included bedsheets and clothes as it was advisable to apply it before bedtime for its its magic to work even more. The pungence of the herbs was another turn off. One cannot bathe after applying it as after massaging, the pores in the skin are opened and may absorb even more wind and dampness. This will aggravate the condition. That was the reason why I used it very sparingly and only when I absolutely had to.

Mum once recounted how she had used the hong eu to stop bleeding. An Indian coconut plucker had accidentally cut a deep gash on his hand and was bleeding profusely. Mum quickly poured the hong eu on a piece of gauze and wrapped it around his wound. The bleeding stopped a short while later. The wound healed in no time and he was soon back to plucking coconuts again.

The hong eu was also effective in dispelling wind in the tummy of babies. Babies with flatulance will cry incessantly. I have heard Mum advising new parents to gently massage the hong eu on the tummy for relief. Another method is to apply the hong eu onto a piece of betel leaf and heat it over charcoal embers. The warm leaf is then placed on the baby’s tummy, ensuring that the navel is covered as well. And the baby would stop crying and get well soon after. Such was the efficacy of my grandma’s hong eu.

How can I not feel old when, in addition to my bodily aches, I can dispense such traditional old wives treatments that only people of my grandma’s and Mum’s generations knew of? Nevertheless, there are benefits to my aches. They are good for forecasting the weather. I can predict with 98% accuracy that it will rain within 48 hours when the aches attack. This is a skill only people with hong sip possess. You can be sure that I will not be caught unprepared on rainy days. As I am typing this now, the ache on my shoulder has disappeared only to be replaced by an ache on the bad knee. There is no doubt it will rain soon. Anybody want to place a wager against that?

This entry makes it my one thousandth post in this blog that just celebrated its fifth anniversary two weeks ago.