Question: This may sound somewhat promotional but I think I may be able to suggest some help. My company has invented a product, Ergowrist, for mouse users. It is only about two weeks old. Prototype models got rave reviews. I have a number of people who have offered to give testimonials to the effect that Ergowrist has relieved them of some (and in some cases all) of the pain in their hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, and/or back.
Ergowrist is a moveable hand pad with an elevated platform to support the palm. (The area of the palm, under the knuckles of the index and middle fingers, generally rests on the elevated platform.) The elevation of the palm platform is adjustable to be comfortable for different hand sizes. Rested on Ergowrist the hand is in a natural relaxed position. The hand is domed and the fingers are slightly curled. Finger tendons are relaxed. Ergowrist slides, under the weight of the hand and arm, on a mouse pad or desktop. Ergowrist allows the larger muscles of the arm to move the mouse without bending the wrist. By supporting the arm, Ergowrist reduces stress in the shoulder and back. Ergowrist can be used by either hand. With the hand rested on Ergowrist, the fingers and thumb are free to hold and move the mouse. Push with the thumb or pinkie to move the mouse sideways; Curl or flex the fingers to move the mouse forwards or backwards.
Ergowrist reduces finger tension. It supports the fingers during mouse clicks and makes drag and drop easier. A tense hand increases the risk of repetitive strain injury. Signs of tension include pressing the mouse buttons hard, gripping the mouse tightly, and pushing down on the mouse. Ergowrist will rock forward if the hand pushes down on the mouse. This gentle rocking acts to warn that the hand is tense and can help train the hand to relax. Ergowrist has many of the benefits found in medical wrist supports. Ergowrist supports the palm, straightens the wrist, keeps the wrist from bending, and prevents the hand from rubbing over the mouse pad. Ergowrist improves the comfort of using a mouse. It supports the muscles which keep the palm arched, relaxes finger tendons, and encourages the larger muscles of the arm to move the mouse.
Comment 1: For anyone who uses a fairly large mouse, e.g. MS Mouse 2.0, you might like to try resting the heel of your hand on the mouse. This lets you use the mouse without any effort from arm or shoulder to keep your fore raised off the mouse mat. It does mean that you have to bend your fingers quite a bit to press the mouse, but overall this seems to work for me.
Comment 2: I currently have a ‘mouse shadow’, which you place under the wrist whilst using the mouse but, personally, I didn’t find these much help. It gave me more pain, and I didn’t want to risk using it for too long, just to see if I could get used to it, since in the past 18 months I have had enough pain! If you could get a picture of it, that would be great. I just can’t seem to pluck up the courage to ask my GP to refer me to a specialist, since they always sit there, shake their heads and say there is nothing they can do. I have read the recovery bundle, and I even have the ‘Pain Erasure’ book by Bonnie Pruden, which I found works for me I think. I have to say that my problem started with acute pain in one wrist, followed by the other. Since then I have periods of pain in my lower arm/neck/shoulders. BUT I have been ‘relaxing’ my muscles, which I hadn’t realised were actually tense all the time! The pain comes and goes, in all areas but recently the tendons/muscles down the outer side of my wrists have started to hurt! And the original pain on the thumb-side of the wrist is mostly gone. Is this movement of pain signs of recovery or a condition getting worse? I guess I need to see a specialist!?
Comment 3: You have to insist on a referral, or change your GP. Get some of the material on AMT and make it clear to them that there is something that they don’t know about as yet. Of course, this might get their back up but if it does not you may get a referral. But see later in message… Contact a local RSI support group for other ideas on this and other ways of recovering – you may even find a sympathetic local GP. You are in luck, as there is a group in Swindon run by Ms Helen Wiltshire, Tel 01793 644 165 (the RSI Association Newsletter has a list of groups). Join up ASAP and go along – as long as the group is not full of people who are negative and depressed about RSI, it can be incredibly useful. From your descriptions, and the fact that trigger points help, you probably do have AMT, in which case it is quite common for the pain to move around – not necessarily a bad thing as long as the overall pain is reducing, from week to week (you will have bad days of course). Keep up the Pain Erasure stuff, especially the stretching, and try some of the other things mentioned in my recovery files.
Given that you probably do have AMT, your best bet is to try to get the GP to refer you to an NHS physio who actually knows about AMT – key words are brachial plexus stretches AND mobilising the cervical/thoracic spine, some physios claim to do AMT therapy but only do the former, which is not very useful by itself. I know someone who had good results from AMT treatment in Wiltshire, probably on the NHS though I am not sure, let me know if you would like to find out who they went to. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, investing in good RSI therapies is well worth it if you consider the alternative of not being able to work any more… Consider going private if the NHS alternatives are not suitable or will require waiting more than a week or two.