First, the relaxation techniques were all learned before RSI. Things I do instinctively that help, other people, I know, do too, like massaging my hands and wrists – a self-treatment, also a symptom – and holding my arm up when lying down (that really does help the pain, but isn’t conventionally relaxing), of course came after. Next I sought out the relaxation techniques because I thought I was uptight and couldn’t relax. If you feel like that, then my story will help you greatly, as it is a story of being thought to be uptight etc. and maybe being that, and having plenty of reasons to be low. (Feeling low is of course different.) I was really “nervy” – partly, I “caught” this from my mother from some time in my childhood, not always: and I had a very fast metabolism too (I am still sometimes pretty quick), and that didn’t help.
The important thing to learn from my experiences is 1) some people just do have quick metabolisms even if there are other things wrong, 2) if you think you can’t relax and some relaxation technique or other doesn’t help, it might just be the wrong one for you. They *all* work for me now, but that is because the powerful ones did. The one I found that worked is biofeedback, though I was bio- monitored: hooked up to a machine but not allowed to look at it, talked through a relaxation sequence and then a meditation. What happened was bizarre: I relaxed deeply, immediately. It turned out that I could relax and had been relaxing! (My teacher asked me to stay on and work with her. Of course I had to pay! but she didn’t charge much and we found out I’d been cutting myself off from the London traffic noise but been perfectly safe.)
That happened to be the way that worked for me, that and later autogenic, which costs a fortune but I was taught free. (I was given the instructions free. That isn’t supposed to happen but the man who gave me them and seen me relax deeply and thought I was safe, as I am.) I now practice both, though not often enough. I should really “meditate” twice a day. I am told both these things are a form of self-hypnosis and that I am particularly susceptible! I am not though susceptible to conventional hypnosis: I tried that. Feldenkrais apparently has effects similar to these methods – that’s why I mentioned them in some detail — and it can like them awaken old emotions etc. That happened to me just once, as a kind of block in a guided visualization session. My teacher was there and she told me to move back through the visualized scene, not try to go through the “block”, and I was fine. It is not anything to be worried about. But something else – yoga might work for you: there is no one way.
There was a gap of some years between my bio monitoring- biofeedback (in the end Anna let me buy a machine to monitor myself: she wanted me first to know my own feelings and what they meant) and autogenic learning, as she left for the US and I couldn’t find anyone else. During that time I didn’t practice quite enough. And during that time, too, I went through an early menopause, undiagnosed, even after I asked a doctor — he said I was too young. Then came the autogenic training. Then by the time my GP agreed to send me for tests, I was more or less through the menopause: and it was that the menopause proper that brought a calming of the metabolism. That is I suppose the bit that is no help!! It was some while after that that, overworked and stressed by overwork, I got RSI. But the relaxation techniques still help. It is bad luck that they push blood to the fingertips, as that really does make my right wrist and hand, particularly, hurt badly. The relaxation helps me with that pain, but also causes it! So I massage my hands and wrists a lot, and am thinking of getting some reasonably cheap baby oil, and using that when I massage them at home.
Everybody is different and I am not happy about pushing one way on people. Some people need very strong painkillers; I know about that as I used to have very bad menstrual pains, which are now known to have a physical basis (a doctor told me all about it much later): and only a drug which was I think very like morphine would really help that. Some people need anti-depressants. I have taken the pre-Prozac but Prozac-type kind; I don’t seem to get reactive depression now, usefully, as they make me feel ill now – luckily, they are not addictive. And I am a bit heretical about this. Some people need tranquillizers. And some people – few, I suppose can take them safely. I am eclectic about this. I think people should do what is best for them, what they find best, bearing in mind also the financial constraints a lot of people with RSI face. I don’t know if any of this is any help at all. I can find the names of books that tell you about the techniques I use. I can also tell you that probably the reason why I could relax when I thought I couldn’t is that I do concentrate very deeply. But I have no idea where that comes from. If there is anything I can look up or try to find out – even in Cardiff, though I am currently not there that much – let me know. Incidentally I was surprised to see Cardiff had no RSI Association branch. York hasn’t, but York is minute!
Comment 1: Thanks for your helpful message. There is no RSI branch here. I was wondering if I should start one actually. As for relaxation, I think I can relax when I actually do the relaxation. I have a tape -by Dr Hilary Jones which my physio gave me to do. I am going to experiment with some more as well.
Comment 2: It just surprised me that there wasn’t one, as Cardiff is so big. I didn’t want to suggest you started one: I am in a lot of pain right now and wouldn’t want to start one here! – the RSI vicious circle I suppose we all know too well. There are quite a lot of tapes that are OK. I am better off without one as I want to say “shut up, I want to relax”, but that has to do with the way I was taught. I forgot: there’s a finding that listening to classical music – I imagine it must be the right kind – induces the same brain-wave state as my technique and the tapes. I keep meaning to try some of the “relaxation music” tapes. We must be the same way. I could relax while doing most relaxation exercises, always, but the question is whether the relaxation carries through. It does seem to, but for the reasons I gave, I find it hard to tell. PS my right wrist is making me totally unrelaxed right now!
Comment 3: I know that research has been done that ‘proves’ (so to speak!) that baroque music increases IQ. Quite a few of my students have recently held an e-mail discussion on the benefits of music and learning, from their own experience, and all of them say that they find studying easier when playing such composers as Bach, Handel, Telemann, Mozart, Rossini, Clementi, Purcell, and others of this period. Yes this does relate to relaxation…!! The point I’m aiming at is, that if you already know a particular style of music enables you to relax, and then use it. But if you’re not sure where to start, perhaps you’ve not listened much to classical music, then these composers (and/or their peers) seem a good place to start. As an alternative, Classic FM have recently been advertising ‘The Most Relaxing Album in the World – Ever’ and ‘T..M..R..A..W.. 2’. The memory of where you can buy them escapes me, but I imagine such places as good record stores or WHSmiths would be a reasonable bet. I’m sure other musicians on this list would bear me out on this? I hope this helps.
Comment 4: Thank you. I don’t know much about classical music, and I was hoping for some ideas. “The memory of where you can buy them escapes me, but I imagine such places as good record stores or WHSmiths would be a reasonable bet”. Yes. I have both quite near. For anyone interested in the more New Age stuff, which I still haven’t tried out, there are ads in the back of Here’s Health. (I always keep a copy of that around as it lists the names and addresses of the national associations of registered practitioners in osteopathy and so on.) On relaxation: I read that T’ai Chi, which I keep hoping to learn, has a form of meditation that has the same effect as mine (and the classical music one).
Comment 5: Major life stressors for last 3 years before RSI injury (divorce, long-distance move, re-marriage, pregnancy and birth, separation, child custody battles and another long-distance move). Yep, a pretty crazy 3 years. I thought things were quite settled down and I was happy at my job, and then BANG…RSI. I’ve been a legal secretary (typed about 100 words a minute) for 10 years, and secretary 5 years before that, and 3 years of typing in high school. My first doctor put me through physical therapy about a month after the initial acute injury, but she concentrated on “no pain, no gain”, and after I told her that massage felt best, she cut it out of my sessions. Three and a half months later, my pain had spread to all of my upper body, especially my neck/shoulder areas.
My attorney finally got me a good doctor, pain psychiatrist and physical therapist that specialize in myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia. FINALLY! My new doctor was honest with me and told me I’d never be able to type again (as a career), and our goal now is just function ability and pain control. It looks like I’ve taken on a life time permanent disability. In regards to the stress, I totally believe those 3 years of MAJOR stress had a significant impact on my body. I think it made me more resistant to any kind of injury, but probably especially the static posture and strain put on my upper body at my job (8 hours a day, sometimes more). I’d be interested in anyone else’s opinions re: prior stress with regards to RSI injury.
Comment 6: “FINALLY! My new doctor was honest with me and told me I’d never be able to type again (as a career,”- Same here. Of course, I shouldn’t have to ask that isn’t supposed to be my job, but I did. And of course I should have voice software at work by now (I’ve been like this for 3 years). But I don’t. So I have some understanding of what you face. I have a better understanding because I knew a typist who lost his job when he was 18 (RSI) and can’t get another of any kind (I taught his partner). “In regards to the stress, I totally believe those 3 years of MAJOR stress had a significant impact on my body”.- I am sure they did. And the problem is that unless you have a reason to look for say relaxation techniques that suit you (I slipped disks, the last thing you need is stress, if you do that), and special chairs (disks again), and to think of your posture (disks again!), you won’t. Nor should we have to. My RSI is known not to be caused by stress. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that stress and RSI are related in many cases. I am told that once you have RSI, they interact. The problem with that in my case is that stress doesn’t affect my RSI at all: I simply “get stressed”! I think probably a lot more information on this would be good to have.