The following article is a follow-on from RSI – What to do? (Part 1 – RSI Initial Symptoms) and RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms) .
OK, so you are experiencing a long term RSI condition, ie it has gradually worsened for more than 2 years. You are in continual pain at work and find it difficult to do your job. You have perhaps gone through consultations with ergonomists, doctors, physiotherapists and just about anybody who’ll listen, but still you find no relief. You struggle to remember what it felt like not to associate pain with computer use. You may be wearing an arm brace (and probably have a large collection of them by now), and you probably have a sizeable collection of strange ergonomic mice at your computer that don’t seem to help. Your employer keeps expecting the same work output from you and you stress about how you can get through it. You get by by doing what you can, but generally come home each night from work and feel anxious about the situation and the searing pain down your arms. You wonder what you can do, and how you are supposed to live a normal life – you can’t remember what normal life was like before this injury!
So what are the options then? Well I remember a great bit of advice from my father (that’s what fathers are for after all). It was at the stage where I was still living in the US and wanted to return home. The prospect of a new computer intensive job and a new situation was looming, and I wondered how I’d cope because my injury was getting worse. The stress of the situation wasn’t helping either and changing countries of residence can be a very anxious time. I just wasn’t sure whether I could go on working with computers any more. I phoned my father and told him the situation, fully expecting him to tell me to stay with the job. I was, however, surprised when he said rather straightforwardly, “Well, you’ll need your arms and hands for everything else you decide do in life”. In other words, it wasn’t really an option to keep doing something that could ultimately make me any more disabled. I knew then that I had to consider doing something else.
Before coming to any radical decisions, I really strongly recommend trying to adopt all the suggestions in RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms) in the majority of cases you will see improvements.
In addition I’d recommend –
- Eliminating as much computer interaction as possible at work, home and elsewhere
- Eliminate text messaging entirely
- Eliminate use of games consoles if you use them
- Get as physically fit as possible, go swimming
- Use meditative techniques to relax and ease the pain, maybe as part of a Yoga class
- De-stress your life wherever possible
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night
- Stick to core work hours – if you are in really bad, continual pain, consider medical leave
- Talk over options with your employer – there may be something else less computer intensive that they can find for you to do
- Find a good physiotherapist who can do deep tissue massage
- Find a RSI support group and share your experience with others. Hear what has worked for others and get free helpful advice
- Consider a career change – it’s tough to do and can be stressful in itself, but there are still jobs out there that don’t require computer use, or at the very least involve less computer use. I am now a self employed picture framer!
RSI conditions can be tricky to get rid of. I have been away from my computer intensive career for two years now, and I still have bad RSI symptoms. Interaction with a computer for 5-10 minutes can make it start to hurt badly, so these conditions are not easy to shake off. There is no ‘magic bullet’ to fix them.
Look after your arms and hands, remember you will need to use them in any new career you decide to take. Good luck with finding a solution that works for you.
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