Does forearm extensor trigger point massage offer a potential cure for RSI?

Trigger point Therapy Workbook

Trigger point Therapy Workbook

Occasionally you come across something that just makes sense, and after receiving an email from James, a fellow RSI sufferer, with a link to his website ‘How I Overcame RSI‘, I had a whole new set of data to analyse and compare. The thing that was interesting was that James as well as having a shoulder RSI to deal with, also had a similar condition to mine with overused forearm extensor muscles.

I have long been aware of the fact that I have overused forearm extensor muscles, and have documented this extensively on this site. What I haven’t been able to understand over the years was how to get these muscles to perform as muscles again or, indeed, if they ever would.  I have frequently used short term massage techniques with the extensor muscles to get very temporary relief  from bad forearm pain, but the benefits from this massage have never lasted beyond a day or so.

I guess my understanding of  forearm muscles has not been what it should be. This lack of awareness was not helped by a previous consultation with a ‘RSI’ doctor (10 years ago in US) who told me that he didn’t know whether  my arm muscles would ever act as normal muscles again, hence I have been very pessimistic about ever finding  a cure. Massage from physiotherapists (including deep tissue massage) has also only been of limited success, although admittedly amounted to perhaps only a handful of 15 minute sessions.

So it is with this background that I read James’ website article, which gives a very detailed account of what he found out on his journey of RSI discovery. He has done a lot of the groundwork for us all, and for this we should be grateful. He has spent a lot of his own money on various treatments, and has clearly documented what worked and what didn’t work for him. What was enlightening was the fact that most of his learnings on RSI corroborated my thoughts on the subject too. So his insights immediately grabbed my attention.

What was most resonant with me was that James had managed to cure himself of a bad case of RSI simply by dedicated massage techniques and Powerball use alone. His techniques were based on ‘Trigger Point’  therapy, which, to cut a long story short, means that there are trigger points (muscle knots) in your forearm  tissue which create referred pain elsewhere, for example, in your hands. These trigger points can each be identified and massaged out using dedicated (up to 6 times daily) and sustained massage over a period of 1 to 2 months. The massage is best self administered since the chances of being able to see a physiotherapist 6 times a day for  two months would, I suspect, be zero! Keep in mind that you are also the person best suited to knowing where in your forearm actually hurts!

He recommended reading ‘The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook’ by Clair Davies, which provides self help for trigger point massage. I have purchased a copy of this book, and I too will pass on a big recommendation for anyone suffering from RSI. It really should be mandatory reading by every RSI sufferer, as well as every doctor and physiotherapist. It is one of the best books I have come across that describes RSI trigger points, along with individual muscle diagrams and very readable descriptions of the muscle functions. It also includes descriptions and diagrams of where those trigger points are located and where to expect referred pain. Basically, you look up where you have pain, and it tells you why and what to do. Although the book covers the forearms and hands, it is not limited in scope ie it covers the entire body, and may be of much use to anyone with any other aches and pains!

In my case it is the first time I have been able to identify individual forearm muscles their function, and the stresses that are placed on those muscles when using a computer. I have now started with (1 week) of self treated trigger point therapy (massage) and will report back here with regular updates. I have identified a lot of very very sore to massage trigger points in both my forearms!

Its difficult to assess effectiveness in the first week, as most of the week is spent literally in eye watering pain massaging the very painful knots in the muscles, and the tense ache of after massage muscles which naturally occurs. However after 7 days of this therapy some of the excruciatingly sore knots are less painful now when I rub them, so I have a lot of hope!

Will keep you all posted on my progress.

Many thanks to James for doing all the research, as well as sharing his findings.

Its the first time in ages I’ve felt slightly positive about my RSI condition.

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7 comments

  1. Justin says:

    Funny this blog comes up, I just picked up this book about two weeks ago. Here are a couple of tips.

    Take a day off every two or three days if you don’t you will be subject to bruising which could actually cause more damage.

    Make sure you are identifying shoulder, tricep, back, and neck trigger points.

    I’m currently seeing a physiotherapist who specializes in trigger point techniques. Another way he said to treat this condition is to put ischemic pressure (constant pressure), on the point itself have somebody else contract the muscle, i.e. lift your arm.

    Lastly, do not use your arms too much to massage your other arm, you can start to create muscle weakness in the massaging arm by putting too much pressure on it.

    Hope all is going well Alan, I just come back to work after a month off and the trigger point therapy in combination with voice recognition technology is slowly helping me get back to work. I found that not only did I have arm problems but I had neck and back problems which were limiting my recovery.

    Keep on the good fight,
    Justin

  2. alanf says:

    Hi Justin,

    Interesting to hear that you are trying the same technique. Please update us with your progress. Good tips on resting. Yes, I have done a days rest occasionally just to see
    how things are progressing. Its had to know when there is massage ache and pains going on. What I am fining is that I have a lot of muscles that actually hurt, and some quite severely so its no surprise I was having problems. Quite a few are feeling more supple now, but I need to keep at the therapy.
    How did the trigger points in your shoulder, tricep, back and neck manifest with you? I generally seems to have mainly forearm trigger points, but I certainly haven’t rules anything out!

    Alan

  3. Justin says:

    Yeah, I figured it was years of bad posture. I now have a new chair, new monitor setup, roller mouse, and a physiotherapist to help me recover. It’s going to be slow and there’s going to be bumps in the road but I finally feel like I might be getting better. I’m just taking it slow and hoping for the best. If you have not seen a physiotherapist for trigger point massage I highly recommend it. They have special tools that can accelerate the process and are found to be more effective than just self treatment.

  4. Paul says:

    Hi Alan

    How is your trigger point therapy going? Has it helped with the RSI?

    Paul

  5. alanf says:

    Hi Paul,

    First point to note is that I am not seeing any professional trigger point therapist, so its all self administered. Bottom line is that it is too early to say for sure although I have found lots of sore tissue in both forearms at multiple depths and multiple areas, so it’s not much wonder I’ve had problems. There is definitely some upside with the trigger point massage as some of these very tender areas are not so tender now, but I still have keyboard ache/pain. Its difficult to assess progress too when you are continually (OK, sometimes only once a day! but sometimes twice or more) massaging sore tissue. The ultimate aim is to free it all up, but I probably wont be able to fully assess the effectiveness for another month or two. The technique is fine and rather straight forward once you have seen the muscle diagrams, but it is just my interpretation of it!

    I’ll update the blog on my progress.

    Alan

  6. Martin says:

    Really helpful article, Today i woke up with very sore forearm, and it was due to bad typing with a horrible keyboard. This massaging is helping me.

  7. Elenute Nicola says:

    Thanks, finally you helped me figure out why the extensor tendon in my 3rd finger was hurting–from holding it over the mouse. I have Clair Davies’ excellent book, and will rest my hand differently.

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