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I'd like to share some things about RSI.

Computers are a central part of my life - for my career, my social network, information about things, and entertainment. My wrists used to hurt occasionally, and I found it upsetting, but I thought there was nothing I could do. One day, a few months ago, the pain didn't stop, and I haven't had a pain-free day since. Not surprisingly, this wreaked havoc on my life and on my mental state. I felt powerless - and even my doctor didn't have any suggestions other than the impossible task of avoiding the computer.

I've learned a lot since, and I feel a lot better, a lot more hopeful because of it. If your body ever hurts from using a computer, playing an instrument, or any other straining activity, I highly recommend educating yourself.

I've found the following to be helpful:

It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory and Therapy for Computer Professionals

by Suparna Damany, Jack Bellis, and Martin Cherniack

This book actually does address carpal tunnel syndrome, but the prevailing theme is that RSI - including carpal tunnel - is whole body problem rather than a local one. Many people have gone so far as to have had surgery, only to have their symptoms return. This book describes how to avoid straining your body when using a computer, and allow it time to heal itself when injured.

Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide

by Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter

I haven't read this one, but it's regarded as the classic. Pascarelli more recently wrote Dr. Pascarelli's Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury, which is less focused on computers.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief

by David G., Md. Simons (Foreword), Clair Davies, Amber Davies

While It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! talks a little bit about trigger point massage, it doesn't go into detail. I picked up this book recently, and have indeed gotten some pain relief from it. The author strikes me as a little overenthusiastic, but he's got a lot of detail about trigger points, where to find them, and how to deal with them. He doesn't devote much time to longer-term stuff - exercise, strenthening, stretches - but other books cover that. There's another book on the topic by Bonnie Prudden, but I haven't read that one.

Sorehand: http://www.ucsf.edu/sorehand/

An RSI mailing list with extensive archives. This page also lists support groups, books, and web resources.

The only thing I haven't seen specifically so far is how to deal emotionally with RSI, being in pain and just not being able to do a lot of things you want to or need to do. Still, it's very worth it to learn more.

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I've more or less fended off some RSI stuff: what I think was carpal tunnel and some elbow problems. I'll admit I can't play softball for more than a couple of innings any more, but other than certain kinds of throwing, I'm not very restricted. The first thing I think is important is to pay attention to the pain. Notice what things cause it and what don't. I've managed to fend off the carpal thing with carfully placed chunks of wood and foam to create my own slightly lowered mouse platform and wrist rest, but in the end I found using a very small mouse (Radio Shack sells a very small optical one for cheap, or used to) and unfailingly wearing a wrist brace can work wonders. Also, rubbing the inside of my wrist for a minute or so with a Dixie cup full of ice with the top torn back has very good immediate and cumulative effects, especially if you keep going for many weeks after the pain stops. The immediate relief can be very helpful, but it's only part of the good effect. Now, if I'm borrowing a computer, I don't really have to use the wrist brace right away. I'm not using one now. but this is afer years of being good. Stretches help, too.

Believe it or not, the worst thing for my elbow problem was probably throwing darts! XC skiing didn't help much either. I let it get pretty bad before doing very much. The ice and stretching helped a lot here, the other trick being to try not to sleep with elbows bent too much, as I'd get numbness. In this case, I used the Dixie cup for two minutes.

This Dixie cup trick is really impressive sometimes. Recently suggested it to a sculptor who was losing her abilty to do her work and she said it helped quite a bit.

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Notice what things cause it and what don't. I've managed to fend off the carpal thing with carfully placed chunks of wood and foam to create my own slightly lowered mouse platform and wrist rest, but in the end I found using a very small mouse (Radio Shack sells a very small optical one for cheap, or used to) and unfailingly wearing a wrist brace can work wonders.

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All good informatin and useful information. Just thought I would add that has Ido writes that carpal tunnel syndrome and pain is usually associated with using a computer mouse than it is with proper keyboard height and other postures when using a computer.

I also have degnerative disk problems in my cervical discs which can cause me pain when I am at the computer too often. Chronic pain can be a serious problem and can led to depression over a period of time.

Erika

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The first thing I think is important is to pay attention to the pain. Notice what things cause it and what don't.

Definitely! A surprising number of my computer-using friends have intermittent pain in their hands. But they accept it. Part of it might be powerlessness over it, but it also doesn't seem like they consider it a big deal.

Sometimes it's also hard to tell what you're doing wrong.

I've managed to fend off the carpal thing with carfully placed chunks of wood and foam to create my own slightly lowered mouse platform and wrist rest, but in the end I found using a very small mouse (Radio Shack sells a very small optical one for cheap, or used to) and unfailingly wearing a wrist brace can work wonders.
It can be challenging re-doing your computer setup, especially if you're either at work (and at the mercy of their furniture) or just don't want to spend hundreds of dollars all at once on stuff.

I use a Wacom tablet, which is still straining but much easier on my hands than any mouse. I also bought an iGesture from Fingerworks (http://www.fingerworks.com/), but it looks like they're no longer making this stuff - doh! I've had more than one friend recommend the Kinesis contoured keyboards, although they are expensive (~$300).

Braces and splints seem to be a controversial subject in the things that I've read. On one hand, it is very important to keep your wrists straight while typing and the like. On the other hand, mobility is important for soft tissue. The recommendation is always taking breaks often to rest, stretch, and move around.

Believe it or not, the worst thing for my elbow problem was probably throwing darts!

The most random thing I've had trouble with is eating popcorn out of a microwave bag.

This Dixie cup trick is really impressive sometimes. Recently suggested it to a sculptor who was losing her abilty to do her work and she said it helped quite a bit.

I've used ice, heat, IcyHot, and NSAIDs to deal with the pain... although I haven't seen anything asserting that any of those things actually help you recover.

The biggest most obvious thing that's helped me is sufficient breaks.

Exercise is also important, sometimes even relieving pain within a few minutes.

I'm finding trigger point massage to be extremely helpful.

Changes to my work areas of course... I've also improved my posture, although I don't think I'll really reap the benefits of this one until some of the other stuff is resolved. Sometimes I'm in less pain when I'm slumping. But I know that that just puts strain on different muscles, to my long-term detriment. Strengthening exercises have helped with this.

-ni

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  • 5 months later...

Are you taking any medication, especially Lamictal? It can cause muscle pain or make tendonitis feel much worse.  At least it did for me.  Also, you may want to try voice recognition software. It is very frustrating for some people who have a soft voice (like mine) but for others it is a godsend solution.  There are many mouse alternatives to try.  I have found that these ergonomic solutions (my boyfrind has a PhD in ergonomics, so I've tried many different kinds) feel different for different people. Sometimes mice / keyboards that seemed to help, suddenly make things worse.

Anyway, if you want more info, I'm happy to dig into some other things I've tried.  My whole career has been in high-tech so this problem has been hell for me.  I feel for you.

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