New Member – Old Problem?

Question:  RSI has been triggered by a very poor workstation position, in a cold room, and exaggerated by also working on a keyboard at home also. Total  was about 7/8 hrs per day. Foolish in retrospect! Does anyone with RSI relate to my position and can they offer some advice? My symptoms are pain in the forearm and to a lesser extent the upper arm and neck. I’ve had this for 2 months and its now stable, but not getting any better. The pain is not when typing, only when I put the arm in certain positions and also try to grip something.
While the immediate cause may be putting my muscles/tendons/tendon sheaths under strain, I wonder if they is wider reason/trigger and hence solution. This could be diet. Has anyone cured RSI of this type by say Vitamin E, or D, or minerals or cod liver oil? Or even sharks’ cartilage!
Finally, has anyone discovered a better professional who is giving treatment for this type of RSI?Chiropractors or Osteopaths or Physiotherapists or Acupuncturists? Are ADVERSE NEURAL DYNAMICS OR TRIGGER POINT THERAPY any good? I am mid 50’s, quite fit and do a lot of exercise. I live in Cambridge by the way.

Answer 1:  I started with pain in the forearm which caused problems such as bad grip and an inability to dress myself – not good at 28! I saw the physio here at work who eventually diagnosed tendonitis. My pain tends to be in my lower arm – from the elbow down to my hand – often very painful in the wrist area. It’s definitely improved since I stopped using my mouse with my right hand and bought a new keyboard for work. I am now getting problems in my left shoulder – probably ‘cos my left hand isn’t used to working the mouse all the time! Still some improvement is better than nothing at all. From the emails that hit the board on a regular basis, everyone’s success rate at getting a strong diagnosis varies – from doctors saying it’s “all in the head” to consultants / physios etc. diagnosing and doing something about it.
The fact that the pain is increased when you move your arm shows that your arm has been in a fixed position for a while now which it considers it’s natural position so when you move it to do other things it will resist. Naturally this is just the opinion of someone who had read an awful lot on the subject – medical advice is definitely recommended. I think your first stop is your doctor but be firm with them – don’t let them send you away without assuring you it’s going to be investigated. Another point of advice: don’t admit to your work that using your keyboard at home is exacerbating the problem! Won’t help you in any legal claims etc. although hopefully it won’t have to come to this. You also need to speak to someone at work about your poor working environment.

Answer 2:  I’m in Cambridge too I go to Enfield to the Varney practice for a different type of physio – called IMS – it’s quite rare in UK. They’re fab and I now have mine under control They say mine was caused due to damage in neck from poor sitting position I had the same symptoms as you yet despite no keyboard and normal physio it spread to both arms, neck, back etc.. Shout if you want to know more

Answer 3:  I can see your point although I’d have problems due to bad knees! What with being pregnant too I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to cope for much longer… On the pregnancy issue I have found that my arm has improved considerably. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve made a conscious effort to not use it as strenuously as before or maybe it’s hormone related. Either way I’m seeing the consultant this afternoon and will be mentioning this to him – maybe this means there’s hope out there for us all (without getting pregnant hopefully!). I’ll feed back into the list tomorrow when hopefully I’ll have some answers.

Answer 4:  Yes, I relate, although it isn’t my main problem I get the same if I’m not very careful about how I position my trackball and if I use it for long periods. Take a very careful look at your workstation set up, where things are and especially if you’re reaching out at all for them – problems like these tend to occur because you are holding your arm in a fixed un-natural and non-relaxed position for long periods. Usually related to using pointing devices, at least in my case: these need to be brought very close into your body and treated with a gentle hand, not gripped with tension. Make sure your elbows are tucked into your body, then you’re not reaching out and your shoulders and arms are relaxed. Make sure your wrist is straight with your arm, not bend up or down – this can cause big problems and certainly causes forearm pain in me. Take as many breaks as you can and stretch your arm and upper body muscles out, move them around.
I know that I’ve had to do a lot of work to get the right things in the right place so that I can use everything without having to reach or put any tension in my muscles. It can be done but it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience and a bit of lateral thinking – really, it’s only something that you can do yourself with trial and error. In my case (with great screams of horror from ergonomics so called experts) I’ve found that the only pain free method is typing on my knee either using a keyboard with an in-built trackball or resting the trackball by the side of a laptop sized keyboard, both sitting on a board/tray across my knee – BUT this only works for me because of how I work and my particular(apparently odd shaped short lower armed long upper armed) body configuration – it may well not be the answer for you.
There are many web sites and companies that supply adaptive/re-positional aids like lap or arm rest rests for pointing devices, different types of keyboard shapes and sizes and many other toys and they may be of use once you’ve sussed out what’s wrong and what you need. There’s a whole lot of other stuff I’ve found too and I can’t outline them all here: there isn’t one simple answer, at least not for me. Learn what you can about proper typing/computer body positioning (try various ergonomics sites on the net, some of the RSI sites have good postural advice too) and then examine what you do (or do wrong) and find out what positions are causing you pain, then remedy them.
On the rest of your questions – a perennial from what I know of our group and I don’t think anyone’s found any answers about diet, supplements or anything else like underlying causes. Ditto what treatment is best – it’s very much dependent on what practitioners are available to you, what techniques they use and what your real problem is. I’ve tried a lot, not got anywhere concrete apart from a bit more learning and discovery to go away and think about. I would try a basic good physio first who knows about RSI: you may get a GP referral else will have to pay yourself. Preferably get your GP to check you over and do some blood tests to make sure there isn’t any other underlying factor.
But to me the key is find out what’s causing it and get whatever changes made to your workstation and computer equipment and work position until you can stop it re-occurring – because otherwise you are wasting yours and everyone else’s time and money trying to cure a problem which is just being constantly aggravated/caused every day. If you are employed your employers do have a legal duty to sort your workstation problems out too (Health and Safety) – but again in my experience the first question they ask is “what do you need?” so you still have to do a lot of the problem solving yourself.

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