Question: I have just subscribed to the site, read the FAQ and trawled a bit through the archive. My story started last Feb/March with feeling lousy and funny aches and pains in upper body, moving to serious pain in right shoulder, followed swiftly by pain in hands, base of thumb, tingly fingers, swollen and painful wrists, painful elbows etc etc. sometimes all symptoms together, sometimes just in one hand, or whatever. I keep discovering new places to have pain, which keeps it interesting but is seriously frustrating!
Physiotherapy has done wonders for my shoulder, giving me back mobility which I had lost and significantly reducing the pain. For a long time I couldn’t sleep, which led to me feeling v. desperate, miserable, and finally breaking down in tears in front of my boss – embarrassing. Carted off to occupational health GP, who gave me painkillers which are useless in the day, but great for sleeping because make me drowsy – cocodamol is what they are called. lately though have been taking Ibuprofen. Work has been understanding about the amount of days off I have to take, but it does mean the work has been piling up as I am the only administrator in a small academic dept, and the p/t secretary who was employed partially to relieve my workload, has been away/ ill since just before Christmas. Foolishly I undid all the good from my rest over the break by feeling so good on Monday that I worked like a demon! got loads done, felt very proud, only to discover that by 11.00 Tuesday morning I couldn’t type, and my left hand, which had been fine for ages, was excruciatingly painful -couldn’t even hold a piece of paper. I had to take Wednesday off and I’m typing this little by little.
I don’t suppose anyone can advise on how not to get frustrated with these stupid setbacks, and how to judge how much is too much on the days when one is feeling (comparatively) good?? re the swimming question – if like me you are lousy at both backstroke and crawl, doing a form of breaststroke but on your back seems to work for me. the head is neutral, so gets away from the conventional breaststroke problem of the weird neck angle. It feels great, although I probably look like an upside down frog… does anybody else have this “moving around” pain? I’m starting to worry that people think I’m bunging it on, as one day my right elbow is the main problem, next day it’s the base of my left thumb, etc etc. it’s great to talk to fellow sufferers like this. As I think someone pointed out a couple of months ago, incidence does seem to be rising in theU niversity sector. Does anybody have any information on this and what action if any the AUT and the VCs are taking?
Answer 1: I hope my experience of exercises in swimming pools may help. When I had RSI at its worst it affected my hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, neck and back with pain in my legs too. I found the Pain Management Programme I attended, similar to the Input Programme at St Thomas’s, but at Guildford, very good.
Part of the programme involved exercises in a hydrotherapy pool. Basically a swimming pool with warmer water than normal swimming pools. The exercises we were taught to do by the physiotherapists included 25 of each of these:
– Holding on to the rail at the side and kicking our feet up and down in the water.
– Holding on to the rail, facing the rail, lift your knees up to touch your chest and then release and stretch your legs out in the water behind you. Then do the same exercise in reverse but facing away from the rail with your arms holding on behind your head.
– Holding on to the rail, jump up as high as possible.
– Stand sideways on to the wall, hold arms outstretched to your side above the water level, cross the pool with sideways steps, one leg moving at a time.
I hope this gives a flavour of the type of exercise. There are lots more. What they achieve is a general strengthening of muscles after sometimes long periods of doing less and less to avoid pain. We are all familiar with the cycle.. it hurts so you stop doing it…inactivity causes weakness… so if you try to do it… it hurts more. Exercise in water is easier than out of water, the water supports your body. There is less pain. I also do my daily stretching regime in water once a week.
Once my pain programme finished, I went off in search of similar pools in the Midlands where I live. After trying health clubs, hotels I finally located a pool via Yellow Pages at Sketchley Hall, a back rehabilitation centre in Hinckley, Leicestershire. They run evening sessions for anyone who can pay 4.50 a session, in their hydrotherapy pool. I have found it excellent. Now that my body is more used to exercise in water, I have found I can swim a little way without pain… so the journey from pain management through stretching and exercises in water has been worth it.
Answer 2: I too have the problem with different symptoms “moving around”. I find the problem is cumulative, I can do a little of some action but if I do too much, or I’ve done too much of another set of actions, then I’m in trouble. The problem being, of course, how much is too much, because by the time you’ve realised it, it’s too late. On days when you feel relatively OK it’s very tempting to do more (and I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t doing more to assist my work colleagues re carrying stuff etc. However, after several injuries I suffered due to having such weak hands now, colleagues and managers seem to have realised I’m NOT putting it on and carry things, open doors for me, ask if I can manage, etc, which is a great relief as at first they didn’t believe me and denied I had anything wrong. After learning my lesson the hard way, I now err very much on the cautious side.
If you can, do try to get voice-recognition – it really has saved my job as I couldn’t have carried on typing for much longer. My employers weren’t keen at all at first as they didn’t want to admit anything was wrong, thought the noise would be too intrusive, that I couldn’t use a telephone if I had a voice-recognition headset on. (I do, I wear a one-eared headset and turn the microphone off immediately the phone rings. I even transcribe audio tapes, using a mono earpiece on the other ear to listen to the tape.) I bought DragonDictate from Dixons for my home computer, used it for several months till I was confident using it, then persuaded my employers to give me a month’s trial using it at work. It was really very cheap. I have moved on from that now and use DragonNaturallySpeaking and can produce typed copy far faster than I could type (and I was a 90 wpm touchtypist). Now they’re beginning to realise it’s actually an advantage to employ someone who can produce
work so fast.