Need your tips on ambidextrousness (Broken Elbow Edition)
June 2, 2019 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to train my non-dominant left hand be more dexterous *sigh* and strong over the next few weeks as I deal with a restrained right arm and hand. Basic goals include printing or cursive, clothing fasteners, and general strength and flexibility. If you have any general tips about dealing with a broken elbow in your dominant arm, I'd love to hear that, too.

I fell down a concrete staircase last week, and the distal end of my humerus had to be patched together with plates and pins. I expect to be in a cast for the rest of the month, and possibly a splint after that, plus much rehab. LOTS of rehab.

So: What SPECIFICALLY can I do to learn to write as a lefty?

Related: I'll need speech to text as well. My iPhone is great, but the Chrome / Google Doc s Voice Typing isn't great in US or UK English. (No Canadian English option.) Dragon Home -- is it worth it?
posted by maudlin to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I did this to some extent while my dominant hand was in a cast for 6 weeks. I did it by...just...doing stuff with my left hand. My left handwriting got *much* better with practice, and that was true for daily life tasks as well. I guess I don't have any magic suggestions, but just doing it a lot will work. I went from maybe first-grade handwriting to maybe fifth-grade handwriting in a few weeks of practice.

I also have intermittent hand problems that prevent me from typing at times, so I use Dragon Professional frequently at work. It is so vastly better than any other dictation software that it is not even funny. I would say get it.

I'm sorry about your injury. Losing use of your dominant hand is quite hard. Try to be gentle with yourself and don't try to do too much and then get super frustrated with yourself. Remember that you are healing from a serious injury. I hope this doesn't come across as condescending or lectury, just noting that I have been there and it is very challenging.
posted by medusa at 6:53 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I will forever be grateful to Crazy Russian Hacker for showing me how to take a T shirt off with one hand (broke my arm three years ago).

As I recall, I found a number of videos by physical therapists showing how to put clothes on, but his was the only one who showed how to take a shirt off. Also, he’s hilarious (or was until he got successful and started mostly showing products).
posted by FencingGal at 6:54 PM on June 2, 2019

Also you may find it entertaining to refer to your left hand as your submissive hand and bark orders at it.
posted by medusa at 7:20 PM on June 2, 2019 [11 favorites]

I agree with medusa that your left hand will get stronger and more agile in terms of typing and writing just by doing, regardless of any regimen.Worry most about overdoing it. Be kind to that left hand (ice, rest breaks, etc) and remember you’re trying to make it do twice as much (or more) as it’s used to.

I’ve been without the use of both hands (not at the same time thankfully) and really, loss of the dominant was not that much worse than loss of the other.....if that makes you feel any better! Also when you get back your dominant hand, you’ll have super powers with your left hand. I still type one handed sometimes without thinking!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:25 PM on June 2, 2019

Therapists have an elastic strengthening clay you can squeeze repeatedly. Ask for some now and start using it with your left hand. That and practice are about it! Welcome to Lefty World.
posted by summerstorm at 8:40 PM on June 2, 2019

I was in the same situation about thirty years ago, too long to remember any specific advice except that it wasn't as hard as I'd expected even looking after an infant.

For speech to text I've been using the Otter app recently and find it pretty good both on my Android phone and on the computer (and feeding it pre-recorded speech). It's not perfect but might fit your needs. It's free for up to ten hours a month.
posted by anadem at 10:00 PM on June 2, 2019

Some things I remember from having my dominant wrist and fingers in a splint for a month: I found it easier to write when I switched to a gel pen with a bolder size than I normally use, I suppose for the same reason kids learning to write do better with fat chunky soft writing tools.

I second the advice to rest your now-overworked hand carefully too, my whole arm would get tired and sore very easily because it was doing so much more than it was used to.
posted by traveler_ at 10:16 PM on June 2, 2019

From experience:
It would probably be helpful to get a one-handed cutting board so you can spread butter on a slice of bread without pushing it off your plate.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:16 PM on June 2, 2019

There was also this previous AskMe about temporary loss of use of the dominant arm, and some folks chimed in with their experiences.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:21 AM on June 3, 2019

My suggestion is to practice writing with gross motor muscles and then go to fine motor muscles. If you have a big chalkboard or blackboard on a wall, practice writing by using your whole arm instead of using your wrist and fingers. Once your left body sees how to do it, it will be easier for the hand.
posted by CathyG at 12:20 PM on June 3, 2019

Thanks everyone! I’ve marked best answers but everything was really helpful and I was especially surprised by how easily the one handed T-shirt (and dress) removal worked.
posted by maudlin at 6:52 PM on June 6, 2019

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