Confusing Change Of Symptoms

Question: I developed RSI symptoms almost four years ago at the age of 24 from playing the flute and tenor saxophone as part of my music degree. I mainly had pain in my shoulders and shooting pains in both forearms. The pain was made worse by the simplest of tasks such as tying shoelaces and even sitting in a chair was extremely painful. Consequently I had to give up playing music and take two years out from my university degree during which time I rested and received physiotherapy treatment.

I was eventually able to finish my final year of study by tape recording my lectures and by using a voice activated computer but it was a painful and difficult year.  Shortly after I finished my degree my arms became less painful and I found I was able to use them considerably more. However my neck was becoming increasingly painful and began to ache almost constantly. This was a real change of symptoms after two and a half years of mainly arm pain and took place within a few months.

During this time my husband and a sports therapist both told me that they could feel a lump on the left hand side at the top of my neck (near my spine) and I found that on some days it would be bigger than on others. (My pain now is now 80% confined to the left side of my neck and upper body). This prompted my doctor to send me for an x-ray and an MRI scan.  The results did not give any explanation of the lump but did show that I had a significant amount of degeneration of my cervical spine (I was told it is cervical spondylosis), but not enough to cause high levels of pain every day.

The best way to describe the pain in my neck is to say it is like very bad toothache.  The medical people I have come into contact with are unable to find out what the lump in my neck is (except to suggest it could be an extremely tight muscle) or explain why I am in such debilitating pain – they say they have never come across this before. I am afraid that we are all at a loss and I feel that without knowing where the problem lies my options for treatment and consequent improvement are greatly reduced.

If any readers have gone through a similar experience or can help in any way ?Lastly my husband and I would like to start a family but are concerned about the physical limitations I face in lifting etc. I would be grateful for any advice and to hear the experiences of new mothers with RSI.

Answer 1: This is often the case when people are ‘working’ environment changes; they develop RSI symptoms or developed new ones.  When you finished your degree did you start work? Or ‘just’ stay at home? Did you do a lot of reading? Keyboard work? Any sudden change of your posture could have resulted in your arms getting better and you developing problems in your neck. For example you might have stopped walking around so much, so you no longer get a break from sitting.

I used to have quite bad pain in the neck (not just my boss 🙂 and I used to get a ‘lump’ on the left hand side. The lump was actually the muscle being pushed out sideways by the vertebra as I always tilted my head slightly to the right – try it and see! Having had this pointed out to me I now keep my head level and the pain on the left hand side has gone. I also used to get very stiff shoulders and neck as a result of not sitting properly. This pain has now gone as I have been taught how to sit properly.

Answer 2: I have a similar experience with a “knot” in my shoulder blade region. After much PT, pain meds, etc. I found a “Chinese Massage” therapist, who does wonders for me after two visits my pain was much less (once every two weeks), I decreased my visits to once a month and have no pain. Muscles have memory fibres and any stress or tension will cause that muscle to retract to its protective state when it first was injured. Give it a whirl, the worst case scenario is it didn’t help but the massage worked well for other areas.

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