Sudden trouble with dominant signing hand- has anyone had this?

Hello everyone, I am new and I hope it is ok to ask this here. I am not Deaf/HOH. My youngest son is Autistic and nonverbal. I have been signing ASL with him for the past two years but we also use other methods such as PECS (picture card system). This explanation is just to give you an idea of how much time I spend signing- it's daily, but not all-day-every-day like a mother to a Deaf child would do.

Over the past few months I have experienced an unexplained decrease in hand and finger strength in my dominant signing hand (I'm a leftie so it's my left hand). This problem does not impact non-signing activities very much. But it has made it incredibly difficult to produce the finger postures for ASL that were previously no problem at all. For example finger spelling is particularly hard. I cannot isolate my pinkie finger anymore to sign the letter "i". It is even difficult to fully straighten my isolated pointer finger, for example to form the letter "d". It is difficult and slightly painful to form signs that we use every day and fingerspelling is the hardest. After signing for a few minutes my hand is sore. I have been trying to sign with my right hand instead (because that hand is not affected at all). But I am very worried and confused as to what is wrong. I went to my doctor and she tested for carpel tunnel but I had no problem with that so she ruled that out. She doesn't really understand about how this is impacting my ability to sign, because it does not really impact other activities with my hand very much so she was not worried about it and just sent me home with instructions to "maybe try a hand exercise ball."

Has anyone experienced this? Should I be resting my dominant hand (and only trying to sign with my right hand), or should I keep pushing myself in an attempt to restore hand strength?

Thank you for reading and for any help or insight.
That is terrible! Maybe talk to a chiropractor? I get weak left hand and arm when i need to see my chiropractor because i have a nerve in my neck that is being pinched.


Retired Terp
Premium Member
It could be a Repetitive Motion Injury. Carpel tunnel is one type but there are others. It's a common disability amongst sign language interpreters.

I guess you could test your hand. If resting it and using your non-dominant hand instead causes your dominant hand to feel better then you know the cause. Or, if you continue to use your dominant hand and it feels worse, that would also indicate it's an overuse issue.

However, if you get the opposite results, then you'll know that overuse isn't the problem.

You might need to see a neurologist or occupational therapist.


Well-Known Member
I agree with the RMI thought. I also think you should try to use your right hand for at least a while to give your left hand a break. I am a righty, but I often sign with my left hand at times such as when I'm eating or drinking, etc. because my right hand is otherwise occupied, so I will use my left hand often instead.


Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I am amazed at our members' ambidexterity, among other things. I mean, if I was eating, I would try to shoo them away while I'm eating.