Comment

Please feel free to leave any general comments about this blog, or perhaps introduce yourself and share your own RSI experiences on this page.

23 comments

  1. Cindy Stephenson says:

    Dear Alan,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and will definitely be following it. I live in Victoria, Canada (on the west coast). I’ve had RSI for 10 years. At it’s worst I was off work for 7 months. It’s under control now, but I’ve always got to be aware. I’ve become ultra sensitive to every little twinge, which helps me stay healthy. I also have some ergonomic software on my computer which works, as long as I don’t ignore the breaks 🙂

    Cindy

  2. Clemens says:

    Dear Alan,

    I have been suffering from RSI for the last two years now. It is slowly getting better, also because of the tips from your great blog!
    My biggest problem while working on the computer is that I forget to take breaks and always slouch forward.. Therefore I have created an “ergonomic posture reminder” (a printable PDF document to stick on the wall next to my screen) which can be found here: http://www.repetitive-strain-injury.de/english

    Keep up your interesting posts!

    Clemens

  3. Leigh says:

    In every organisation there are workers with some degree of special needs.

    It is the responsibility of every employer to make sure that they provide the tools to allow the employee to complete their work, in an environment which is safe and comfortable.

    In the UK, this responsibility is enforced by law. It’s called the Disability Discrimination Act and it requires that:

    All workplaces and places to which the public has access, provide whatever help may be needed to allow a disabled person to be involved in the company’s activities on as equal as possible a basis as an able-bodied person.

    Disability could mean dyslexia, a wheelchair user, somebody with low vision or an RSI sufferer.

    I am a copywriter and suffered the pain of RSI for the first time this year. The burning sensation in my fingers and wrist prevented me from doing my job! The company I work for instantly installed RSIGuard on my PC. It’s a piece of software which monitors your mouse movement and keyboard strokes. It offers breaks, exercises and tips to prevent and manage my pain. I was also given an Evoluent mouse to use. The best way to describe it is a mouse on it’s side! My hand was kept in a vertical position which was comfortable and felt more natural.

    It took some time to get used to doing the exercises, and I got some funny looks! But I don’t care as I’m not in pain anymore and now some other people in the office are using it too.

    It’s a real mark of the quality of company I work for that they acted quickly and found the right solution for me.

    The company they used to help me is http://www.keytools.co.uk

  4. alanf says:

    Thanks for your comments Leigh. You make a lot of very valid points. You are of course benefiting from the last 15+ years of RSI awareness that employers and IT suppliers now have. When my initial symptoms developed, there were no ergonomic mice/keyboards available, and the knowledge about these conditions was very poor. Fortunately, now there are numerous input devices and software available for ergonomics/RSI. I only wish they had been available back in the mid 1990’s!
    It’s good to hear that you have managed to find a solution that works for you. I hope you continue to be pain free!

    Alan

  5. Greg says:

    I’ve had RSI for 5 years and when it was really bad I used an ingenius free software product to replace keyboard typing by just moving a mouse (no clicking and it’s not a virtual keyboard either) called Dasher (http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/). It looks rather bizarre and confusing at first but after a few tries you will be amazed how easy and fast it is to use.

    I’ve also greatly improved my RSI and am on the way to curing it by concentrating hard on my muscles everyday to first become concious of the tension that I had been unaware was still there and then to gain suficient control to relx that tension with my mind. I learned I had to do the same for my upper arms, neck and shoulders to eliminate all roots of the problems.

    Hope this helps!

  6. alanf says:

    Thanks Greg, looks like an interesting tool, have added a link to it on the ‘Utilities’ page on this site. I agree with you, being aware of and then learning to reduce the upper body muscle stresses is the key to helping RSI conditions. It can be difficult to do in stressful office environment though, and I didn’t recognise this until it was to late. Any tips to share with us?

  7. Greg says:

    You’re welcome Alan, and thanks for your interesting blog. My RSI conditions are almost identical to yours, except without the upper forearm extensor pain (more towards the middle in my case, but the same burning pain/ache on back of hands, wrists etc.). I only realised in March ’07 that all this tension was there, that it was preventing me from recovering and that I could potentially cure myself. I spend hours everyday trying to fix my arms (although most of the time for the past year, I’ve instead spend that time concentrating on an rsi-type voice problem that resulted from voice recogniton software misuse). It took a year to get good awareness of the muscle tension and to get reasonable control (I kept finding that my brain’s interior map of my body was incomplete e.g. I thought I was sure I was sensing my entire forearms and hands, but it was just the core area – expanding this “map” is the key to relaxing the muscles).

    I hit a wall until several months ago. I realised the ends of my forearm extensors where they meet the elbow were still tensed, causing the entire muscles to be under tension (my interior map of where my elbow was didn’t match my exterior map that stops me bumping into doors etc. – I was only able to sense part of my elbow area) and later, that I must fully relax my neck so that I can relax my shoulders so that I can relax my upper arms so that I can fully relax my elbows so that I can relax my lower arms! Now I’m vastly better at sensing and releasing tension all over than when I started, and know what normal feels like, and it takes less and less time to get there, although if I concentrate on the voice prob for a few weeks and neglect my arms I become rusty. When i get it normal I can do everything I used to do, computer for hours, long drives etc. with almost no pain (although not repeatedly day after day yet). If I don’t get it feeling normal, I have the same old pain problems after a while. Normal is something I keep redefining as I improve – you will have to become far more relaxed than you ever were pre-rsi, almost super-human, but that’s a good thing. It feels great!

    Every time I’ve hit a wall in my progress, it’s always because there I need to more thoroughly relax my muscles, and the fascia enveloping them, which plays a big role in why the arms need the everything up to the head and neck to relax (the fascia seamlessly covers all these muscles and becomes thicker and less flexible under rsi due to stress hormones and tension). I can’t stress enough that you must persevere to be able to fully relax your muscles. It helps to aim to relax your entire body, to get your brain’s default body tension state to change. It will eventually feel like taking off a space suit. You fingers will move incredibly freely and the old way will seem very stiff in comparison.

    I’m very confident that after 5 years, I’m on the way out of the tunnel,but it will take another year or 2 I guess for me to return to a computer based job. This is the only place I’ve posted about my story, but when I’m cured or nearly cured, I intend to set up a site going into great detail of my methods (I’ve handwritten pages of notes as I progress with relaxation techniques, including self administered acupuncture, visualization methods etc.). Typing this for 15mins has been no problem (I’ve been surfing for around 4 hours today) with barely any arm preparation. Unthinkable a year ago! My muscles are learning the new default relaxed state! My shoulders don’t even tense during horror movies! Without the enormous distraction of having to fix my voice tension problem, I think I’d be cured, (at least for practical purposes) by now.

    One last tip. Since my 1st post I’ve started taking a 450mg valerian root capsule before bed. It’s a natural muscle relaxant, intended for insomniacs, but useful for us! I was amazed how effectively it relaxes your body the 1st time (I immediately forgot I’d taken it as my mind wandered, then noticed the relaxation and remembered, so I don’t think it’s placebo), although it’s not been so dramatic subsequently, still noticeable though. I don’t think it would have worked so well if my muscles had been tensed continuously for years without experiencing reriods of normality through the relaxation work I had already been doing though. Worth a try, and it’s cheap.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your condition,

    Greg

  8. alanf says:

    Thanks for sharing your story Greg. I wish I could learn to relax more (especially difficult to do when the economy is tanking!!). I think some people are more prone to tensing up than others, and are therefore more prone to RSI – hence leading to some medical theories that “it’s all in the mind”. It certainly could all be caused by mental/physical tension because at the start of my RSI condition I was anything but relaxed mentally due to job pressures and deadlines, and I was pounding out a heavy workload for 9 hrs a day with no breaks. Its only recently that I’ve discovered Yoga and meditation, and it’s one of the best natural ways to relax that I know of. Just wish I’d got into it sooner because i’ve now had this chronic condition for coming up to 13 years now and I’m uncertain whether it will ever leave me now no matter how relaxed I am.

  9. Neil U says:

    Hi

    very interesting site and in particular Greg’s comments above. Do you know if he did get round to developing a site about relaxation techniques for RSI? I would be interested to learn more.

    Thanks,

    Neil

  10. Greg says:

    Hi Neil, luckily i ticked the notify me of follow up comments box so I got an email telling me there was a new post and quoting your question. I haven’t set up a website yet but it’s something I still aim to do. Unfortunately over the last year the problem with tension around my larynx got a bit worse so I’ve pretty much exclusively concentrated on that and ignored the arm rsi problem. However, the good news (in fact for me, excellent news) is I’ve realised that the root cause of the voice problem is the same as my rsi. I’ve learnt some crucial things about both problems, which may or may not be relevant to other people. On a few occasions last year I managed to release stiff areas of muscle that I can normally not conciously feel at the back of my head/neck, surrounding my spine and where it meets the brain stem area, I think. On the 5 or 6 occasions I’ve managed to do that it feels like I’ve released a major compressed nerve pathway which allows me to utterly relax all the extensor muscles in my body, and have a very different concious sensation of them, including arms, neck, back, legs. It might even be the fascia that is releasing. Suddenly my body is no longer under tension and I feel 100% sure that this is what being free of rsi should feel like. It’s even better than the sensations I mentioned in my earlier post, which were like a very muted version of this. My arms are completely relaxed, my throat is suddenly no longer compressed and all my problems are cured! But it only has lasted a few hours at most so far and I haven’t managed to do it since for about a year. The main thing is I now have a strong hope that there is a single root cause (a major compressed nerve(s) in my neck/back of my head), and potentially I can learn how to fix it permenantly. I feel like I’m getting close to repeating my earlier sucess, but hopefully next time I’ll better understand and remember how I did it exactly. Best of luck with your own rsi problems.

    Greg

  11. Greg says:

    A few other things I forgot to mention. I stopped taking the valerian root pills as it only seemed to do anything the 1st time. I also learned that thinking very relaxing thoughts somehow makes it easier to relax my neck (which is where 90% of my efforts go). I imagine all my problems are solved, I imagine I’ll free myself of any kind of cumpulsive behaviour (I imagine a lot of rsi sufferers doggedly strive to complete a task when rationally they should give up or it wasn’t worth the effort in the 1st place, which creates stress response in the muscles). I even make myself think perculiar philosophical thoughts like anything I do in my life will be irrelevant in 10,000 years so don’t care too much what happens etc. It all has a very noticable physical affect on the tension in my body and is a starting point before I try more direct measures to relax, freeing myself at least temporarily from self inflicted pressure. At least some of it (esp. irrational self-enslavement to tasks) is becoming and should be part of my new frame of mind anyway.

    It also helps a lot to imagine an area becoming or being fully relaxed (helps a lot if you’ve successfully done it before so you can vaguely remember what it feels like). Then sometimes my arm or whatever just does what I’m imagining on its own.

    As for relaxing my head/neck, I’m becroming increasingly aware my nasal cavity area, area between my eyes (which can cause eyestrain) and jaw are all part of the problem.

  12. alanf says:

    Hi Greg, thanks for your comments. They are very relevant to RSI. As I discussed in my post ‘Breaking the RSI Pain cycle‘ a lot of it has to do with mental stresses in our lives (including stressing about your injured arms!) causing our injured muscle tissue to tighten up and enter the pain cycle loop where we become tense, leading to more pain because of that tension. It can be a vicious cycle. The techniques you describe for relaxation are close to the Buddhist idea of ‘mindfulness’ and I certainly always found that having a relaxed mind helped breaking the pain cycle. Physical activity away from computers can also help a lot to get your mind into the right place, I also recommend Yoga, swimming etc. Meditation can also help with the relaxation process too.

    Alan

  13. Greg says:

    Thanks Alan. I think i’ll try some yoga too. The pain cycle loop you describe rings very true to me. Another mind trick I find useful is to draw inspiration from animals in the local park. They don’t seem to worry about anything, and I remember that I’m just an animal too, and all the external pressures in my mind are alien to the animals. The pressures are all coming from abstract human constructs like the need to have a sucessful career etc. To whatever extent that’s true or not, it’s a relaxing thought anyway!

    On a “technical” note, over the past year I’ve found that imagining my spine much further back than where my “internal map” thinks it is eventually allows me to feel areas much further back including the muscles around my spine (lying down with a pillow under my back, arms down either side, which opens chest up), and to then continue sensing sideways to the back of and ends of my shoulders (previously areas my brain couldn’t seem to find the nerve pathways to sense), and the triceps, which are tensed at the shoulder end, being able to feel and release areas I had no awareness of before. That helps my arms even when I’ve not got very far with my neck. I think for the specific rsi you and I have, it may be that like me, you are only aware of a subset of the nerve pathways going to your triceps and shoulders (all the extensor muscles in the arms and shoulders might share the same branch of the nervous system perhaps). When you can feel the rest, it feels like you are suddenly aware of a new outtermost area of those muscles, and were only feeling the inner core before, and it immediately relaxes everything downstream (forearms, wrists etc.).

    I think many people need to look further upstream than just trying to relax their arms. I didn’t believe that the root cause could be there until I experienced it myself. The root cause may well be further upstream towards your shoulders or even upper neck in my case. On the few occasions my neck fully released my trapezium seemed to dramatically spread out, followed by my shoulders then triceps then elbows, forearms, wrists, and hands. It was like my arena of sensations suddenly extended outwards where I could have never imagined. Just like I had a vast new network of nerve pathways at my command.

    Greg

  14. Della says:

    Hi Alan
    Thankyou for your response. Since my last post, I have had nerve testing done and I do have carpal tunnel as well as having extremely tight forearm muscles that seem to be in a permanent state of lock-down. Two different issues. Surgery and therapy is the recommendation. That is, if several weeks of rest don’t improve it. Rest is not the answer. I could go years without touching a keyboard but the minute I do, I’m in pain within 5 minutes. I don’t understand how I got this way. I have been like this for 15 yrs. I have never worked extensively in an office environment, ever! I have never done any work or done anything in my own time, that was repetitive or had anything to do with my hands/arms. I haven’t had any injuries, don’t have any health problems that could cause this…unless diabetes could be the sole culprit here?! And if it is, will surgery even help?

  15. alanf says:

    It sounds strange that you can’t identify a cause. Re surgery, I’d be wary of it. I have known both people who have had extreme relief from carpal tunnel surgery, as well as one who couldn’t use her hand at all after the surgery. Surgery should be last resort.

  16. John says:

    Alan,
    Thank you for all the helpful information. I am a fellow sufferer that is on my way to recovery. The road is long but I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

    I’m blogging about my journey via Dragon at:

    http://www.nocarpaltunnelblog.com

  17. Julian says:

    Hi Alan,

    I posted here back in june or July, regarding my RSI, but strangely I cannot not find my post anymore. Anyway, I thought I would follow up with you, because thanks to you, I first discovered that I had RSI and not tennis elbow or other “tendinitis”.
    I was out on disability for four weeks back in July, however, my condition only slightly improved and as soon as i started working again, i was back to square one.

    It is now three months later, and I am feeling better. The main improvement is that I’m no longer in pain when resting, which is extremely important obviously.

    If I could also do other activities without pain. I can hold hands with my wife, brush my teeth, eat with a spoon or fork, etc. I am still in pain when typing, although I can type for a little longer before the pain comes on.

    Since July, I have joined the sorehand mailing list at http://sorehand.org/archives/Default.asp

    If you have not done so, I would also encourage you to join it. It is a good source of information about RSI. I tried using a foot mouse, but that didn’t work. However, I have found a good substitute for the mouse: voice recognition. I’m typing this message mostly via voice recognition. I use windows seven voice recognition, however I have also heard good things about Dragon naturally speaking.

    I have started doing forearm stretches for my form extensor muscles. I also started lifting weights. Had initially stopped back in February, when my symptoms got very bad.
    As first, I avoided doing exercises that specifically targetted the forearm muscles and stuck to full body workouts for a month. I have used seven lb. weights to do bicep curls, lateral shoulder raises, tricep exercises and “bench presses”. I then hurt my left elbow while trying to do self trigger point massages without using my other hand. In retrospect, this was a bad idea.
    Currently, I’m working my forearms with 4 and 5 lb weights and plan to move up to higher weights.
    Im getting deep tissue trigger point massages once a week, although that provides only temporary relief. However, it may help speed up my recovery in the long run.
    I’m also going to IMS sessions (trigger point accupuncture) once a week.

    The combination of stretching, massage, weight lifting, accupuncture and rest thanks to voice recognition is helping me.

    I have a better understanding of what RSI is and what needs to be done to recover.
    Please see these links. People have recovered from bad cases of RSI doing what I am doing plus a host of other things. Apparently, not only do muscles need to be stretched, and trigger points removed, but nerves also need stretching:

    http://www.tifaq.org/typing-injury-archives/adverse-mechanical-tension.html

    http://groups.google.com/group/sci.med.occupational/browse_thread/thread/f8c52e0d9e072027/dd6d2a66ba1d245d?q=rsi+forearms+recovery

    I’ve not started doing than yet, but I plan to soon. I will keep you updated on my recovery.
    If you want to communicate via email that would be great.

    Julian

  18. alanf says:

    Thanks Julian,

    good to hear you are doing better with your condition. I will check out your links, always good to get more information and useful links and resources.

    Alan

  19. shani says:

    hi alan,
    i chanced upon your blog today. i work as a manual orthopedic physical therapist by day; avid whitewater kayaker on gorgeous summer weekends. just saw your post on paddling. do you wear gloves, by chance, to help with your grip? if you feel your hands sliding/losing the grip on the paddle (as happens when it’s all wet!) then your inherent reaction is to just grip harder. a sustained, hard grip of that nature will surely exacerbate your RSI symptoms. and being as your forearm muscles are located quite near the elbow, it is likely that you will feel elbow pain. additionally, it is very easy to paddle without trunk rotation/force, forcing your paddling from the arms only, which will fatigue them considerably. don’t give up on kayaking! have you ever taken a lesson to make sure your form is good?
    wishing you all the best,
    shani

  20. alanf says:

    Hi Shani,

    the elbow pain started after gripping paddle too tightly on windier days (more strenuous paddling). I agree that gripping too tightly can be a problem, and I do try not to grip tightly, but wind does force you to hang on to the paddle a bit tighter!
    I have so many tight muscles in the arms making it difficult to diagnose, but I have found a very sensitive spot on the inside of the arm about 2 inches down from the funny bone, which is super sensitive (perhaps from gripping the paddle with the outer two fingers?) and seems to relate to the elbow pain in some way. The other symptom I have is numbness on the outer edge of the little finger which is I believe possibly ulnar nerve symptom, but I’m not 100% sure. I do think that this is all connected though, just difficult to find someone to help me diagnose it.
    I did have super tight triceps, but have managed to release them considerably through massage.

    Alan

  21. Peter B. says:

    For thirty years I have been involved in all facets of computers, including many hours (Sometimes 14 to 16 hours a day), graphic artwork and publishing. Working long hours using the conventional computer mouse I started to get RSI in the right arm and shoulder.

    My shoulder, arm, and wrist became very painful. I would have to stop my computer work for several days’ just to get some relief from the pain.

    I tried using my left hand but found it to difficult and awkward especially when doing fine work such as electronic diagrams and wiring layout design.

    So after some thought I simply reversed the mouse so the click buttons were facing me. This instantly resolved the problem as by placing my hand flat on the desktop then holding the mouse with my thumb and middle finger and using my first finger to click the (left mouse button), which in the reverse position is on the right hand side of the mouse.

    The only movement is by bending the fingers, forwards or backwards for up or down movement and bending one finger whilst keeping the other finger straight in a swivelling action to move the mouse cursor from side to side. A combination of both movements moves the cursor around the screen.

    Just a slight wrist movement sometimes, with practically no movement of the arm, elbow or shoulder. Thus the area of RSI never again gets any further injury from mouse use.

    On the down side your brain will have to undergo readjustment as everything on the screen is in reverse. Still after a few days of usage in the reverse mode you will quickly adapt. Even your body will appreciate the cure from the curse of the dreaded RSI pain.

  22. alanf says:

    Hi Peter,

    thanks for your tip and for sharing your experiences. It brings memories back to when I used to change around my mouse to make it feel better. I used to have extra felt padding stuck to each key because I felt pain with every click without the padding. Its interesting to hear about your reverse mouse technique, maybe others can try that out too.

    Thanks
    Alan

  23. Peter Boddis says:

    Sometimes there is a simple fix for major problems; One I came up with many years ago was the following.

    For thirty years I have been involved in all facets of computers, including many hours (Sometimes 14 to 16 hours a day), graphic artwork and publishing. Working long hours using the conventional computer mouse I started to get RSI in the right arm and shoulder.

    My shoulder, arm, and wrist became very painful. I would have to stop my computer work for several days’ just to get some relief from the pain.

    I tried using my left hand but found it to difficult and awkward especially when doing fine work such as electronic diagrams and wiring layout design.

    So after some thought I simply reversed the mouse so the click buttons were facing me. This instantly resolved the problem as by placing my hand flat on the desktop then holding the mouse with my thumb and middle finger and using my first finger to click the (left mouse button), which in the reverse position is on the right hand side of the mouse.

    The only movement is by bending the fingers, forwards or backwards for up or down movement and bending one finger whilst keeping the other finger straight in a swivelling action to move the mouse cursor from side to side. A combination of both movements moves the cursor around the screen.

    Just a slight wrist movement sometimes, with practically no movement of the arm, elbow or shoulder. Thus the area of RSI never again gets any further injury from mouse use.

    On the down side your brain will have to undergo readjustment as everything on the screen is in reverse. Still after a few days of usage in the reverse mode you will quickly adapt. Even your body will appreciate the cure from the curse of the dreaded RSI pain.

    Hope the information helps you to help someone

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