Alexander Technique to aid recovery

Question: I am convinced that cultivating this amazing technique is the  best way of ensuring complete recovery from RSI. It’s not a cure or a  treatment for RSI as such, but for me it has been and is an essential  part of ensuring that I never get a recurrence. The technique’s been so  good that I’ve now started on a 3 year training course to become an AT  teacher for my new career!20 The technique isn’t just about posture and how to sit, it’s about how  you use your body in every moment – which is really all about how you  use your self – as the ideas of the Technique do not accept the so  called split between mind and body.20 Through it I’ve come to understand my part in getting RSI (apart from  the questions of employer responsibility, ergonomics and susceptibility  etc) which has been very useful in learning what to avoid for the  future. I was using my hands and arms with excessive tension, sitting  still for two or three hours at a time with a stiffened neck and back  and legs and didn’t notice a thing. I ignored the warning aches and  pains until it suddenly became a crisis. The technique has this great concept of “end -gaining” which means doing  something to achieve an end without paying attention to the means.  Computers really invite you to do this. The technique gives you a way  of learning how to use your body as it is designed – reduce  ‘end-gaining’, which can only be gradually learnt with the help of a  teacher at first and over a period of time. It’s kind of hard to explain  without experiencing it but learning to be more in touch with my hands,  arms and neck in particular with a sense of wholeness in movement means  I will be more inclined to listen to the warnings, and have a new and  enhanced ability to stop, (this need only be a matter of seconds) pace  myself and check & release tension before build up. I have been suffering with diffuse RSI for about two and a half years in  both hands, arms back and neck, which forced me to give up work and be  dependent on help for washing dressing feeding myself etc, and enduring a  lot of pain. Sheer time and specialist physiotherapy have been  important in recovering, but learning the technique alongside these has  helped me understand a lot about why, to manage it better and better and  learn to really change my harmful habits. I now feel generally great and  there’s not much I can’t do (using voice software at present as I ration  the amount of writing I do per day, use the computer very little, plus I  don’t lift anything too heavy yet). 20 I usually know why I have pain eg: I can track it back to something I  did between one and 16 hours ago approx. (depending on how serious) but  the key thing I’ve learned is to avoid causing this pain in the first  place (the worst of it) to allow for recovery, which means for me being  less rough and tense with my hands and arms and thinking before I do  something that may aggravate. To me it seems that without changing my  ways or habits I would be perpetuating the conditions for endless  flare-ups. I guess you can recover without relearning habits so  thoroughly, but it’s hard to avoid doing things that aggravate as they  are habitual – even when they cause pain especially with the common  delayed reaction to this kind of pain. Anyhow I am learning (it’s a continual process) to become better   co-ordinated and integrated, using less unnecessary effort in  everything I do. For me getting RSI was an essential warning from my  body which forced me to pay attention to what I was doing to myself, so  RSI has helped me learn to pay myself more respect. This doesn’t mean I  don’t compromise – the ideas are essentially realist and practical, but  it’s amazing how differently any task can be approached using AT -after  all our choices are only limited by our thinking. What do others think?

Answer 1: I was planning to start lessons, (expensive though) because I’m becoming more and more convinced that my hideous posture and computer game playing habits all those years finally hit me as RSI – what it means though is that unlearning it all and reversing the pattern may take a very long time! Darn it. Do we have any people on the list who are that far down the line, where they’ve built up bad posture etc, got RSI, then turned it around and are slowly getting their hands back over time? I think we do, but how long does it take?

Answer 2: This is the most sensible and useful post I have read, ever. RSI or whatever you wish to call it can be overcome with effort. I wish there were more like you.

Answer 3: I’m sure your personal experience of RSI will give you a wonderful insight to enable you to help your future students. I hope you can pass this on to your fellow students and teachers during the course.  I have had about 20 AT lessons over the last 9months and , like you, find it immensely useful. I’m a bit concerned about your affirmation that “cultivating this amazing technique is the best way of ensuring complete recovery from RSI.” If you have experienced complete recovery I am very pleased for you. However, I note your change in lifestyle “(using voice software at present as I ration the amount of writing I do per day, use the computer very little, plus I don’t lift anything too heavy yet). This sounds like “complete recovery so long as I avoid anything which caused the problem in the first place”. This isn’t a cynical comment. RSI is a great life changer, and so is AT. Both force you to re-assess and change old ways of living.  i heartily applaud your positive attitude. I follow the same principles myself. My AT teacher has been wonderful and full of excellent advice for all aspects of coping with and improving my situation. If I continue to work hard at AT and continue with all my other diet/exercise/treatment/lifestyle routines then I expect to keep the (diffuse in my case) RSI in check. “Complete recovery” would be glorious, but experience so far (after a year since symptoms became too bad to continue to ignore them) indicates this is likely to be 1 or two years down the line. (I try not to admit it may never happen!).  I’ll go and lie down now. (Hellie and the other ATers will know what I mean!) Best wishes to all, Miriam

Answer 4: My first reaction was to dash off a reply saying something like, <Crass insensitivity to others’ feelings and overbearing arrogance can be overcome too (although in some cases, it obviously takes a lot more effort>.  My second reaction was to ask you why you feel the need to make such a sweeping, provocative and potentially-insulting statement. Many of us HAVE tried numerous <and expensive> things – sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Why include everybody’s reactions to RSI <or whatever we wish to call it> as though everybody is the same?  My third reaction was to look up the RSI archives. When I read your statement (31/1/99) that “My own view is that [RSI] does exist … but in a number of cases there is a considerably psychological overlay” I began to understand where you were coming from <as the Americans say, I believe>.  You have also asked “does anyone really believe carpal tunnel is related to RSI?” (2/6/98) and also asked the same re trigger finger.  What I would like to ask you is – DO YOU YOURSELF HAVE RSI? Because if you don’t, I do not believe you are able to understand fully the situation of those who do – and if you did, I believe you would choose your language with a little more care.  Having got that out of my system, I would like to ask, What do others on the list think? AM I being hyper-sensitive (poor, silly, hysterical woman – probably got PMT or menopausal) or am I reacting quite reasonably to the unvoiced assumption that if I pulled my socks up mentally I could quite easily overcome my RSI <or whatever I wish to call it>. Perhaps we’ve all got LMF too?

Answer 5: As a mere male without RSI (except for the occasional twinge from my elbow due too much gardening and DIY), my feeling is that there is NO SUCH THING as “all in the mind” RSI/WRULD/etc. This is a real problem with real pain and has to be treated as such.  Having got that off my chest, can we please start realizing that stress is very real and VERY damaging and that when I talk about stress, I am not implying that “it’s all in the mind” rather that the effect of stress is to exacerbate problems or find the weakest points in our physiology.  The problem is in the current view of what “stress” means, not in the reality of a problem so serious that the HSE and HSC are having major consultations on its effects on health and safety!

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