Reducing RSI using tape recorder

Another approach you could take to increasing your capacity for writing is to apply pacing techniques to increase the length of time you can write pain free. These were taught to me on a pain management course at St Thomas’ hospital several years ago. Basically what you need to do is to time yourself on three separate occasions to see how much writing you can do before you get the first pain symptoms. Take an average of these timings and then reduce the average time by 20%. This gives you a starting point for the amount of time you can spend writing. Use a timer and write for this baseline length of time, for about a week then gradually increase the amount of time you spend writing by between 10-30 seconds on each session, the amount of time you can increase it by depends upon whether you get an onset of pain, if you do reduce it back again to a period that doesn’t produce pain. The number of sessions you can do in a day will depend upon how sensitive your hands/fingers are, don’t do too many.

It may sound pathetic and irritatingly slow but using this approach fools the brain into not registering small increases in time spent writing and doesn’t overstretch the muscles/nerves by long bouts of activity. Using this approach I was able to increase my writing ability from about 15 minutes in July 1996 when I started the pacing technique to two hours by July 1997 when I took my Masters exams for Occupational Psychology, which I passed without the need of a writer. Prior to this treatment I did an Open University Degree and had to do my exams at home with extra rest breaks to get me through. For the rest of my course I used a tape recorder to record lectures and Dragon Dictate for writing my assignments at home. Although my studies were a struggle, the effect on my self-esteem and self-confidence has been invaluable and well worth the suffering. Hope this helps.

Comment 1: Recording lectures using a tape recorder picks up a lot of fellow students’ coughing and whispering! Especially difficult if your lecturer is a mumbler and your classroom has got a busy road outside – all you get is background noise and not very much of a lecture at all! I can whole-heartedly recommend using a recording minidisk-player with a decent microphone – I have been provided one by my university disability officer and it works GREAT! You can even plug it into your stereo at home and listen to your lectures all over again, just as if you were there… freaky…

Comment 2: This is very helpful information. Also using tapes to record critical lectures in classrooms sounds great. It sounds very encouraging to hear that you could graduate to 2 hours of long hand writing from just 15 minutes in a year’s time. Thanks a ton for your detailed email and all the best to you.

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