Question: I work as a computer consultant at a Help Desk at a university. It can get rather busy and be stressful. About two years ago, I began having muscle pain on my right outside wrist, elbow and upper arm. Several weeks passed and my entire right arm was burning from my wrist to the top of my upper arm. Someone at work said “you have carpal tunnel”. I immediately went to my workers comp doctor and he diagnosed me with tendonitis in my thumb and overuse syndrome. He prescribed an anti-inflame and told me to take it easy on a computer. My right arm hurt so bad, I basically quit using it and began using my left arm for everything. I was standing in a Wal-Mart one evening (having been off work for two days), and low and behold my left arm burned in the same location, clear up the arm. Here I am with both arms feeling like there on fire. Went back to Works Compensation and they put me in physical therapy.
To make a long story short, I had about 6 weeks of burning pain in both arms. When it began to reside, they did extensive nerve testing. I passed with high results. The neurologist told me I had the nerves and muscles of a 30 year old (I’m 42). It seemed to clear up for about 4 months. My husband was admitted to a medical center and I spent the first week at the hospital sleeping on their furniture. I began having inflammation between my shoulder blades and pain radiating up my neck and down my back. This continued over the next 6 months, and I began having radiating pain down my shoulder to my arms, inside my shoulders and down to my wrists. I changed doctor’s (couldn’t stand the guy), and went to another doctor. He did nerve testing and I failed big time in both my arms. He ordered an MRI and he found a bulging disc in my 5th and 6th vertebrae in my neck. He sent me to a specialist to do a nerve block. The specialist said it wasn’t bulging enough to be causing the pain, but could be repetitive motion or carpal tunnel. He had to rule out these other problems, so both doctors decided to inject my neck. I had an increase of pain for about two days, and then magically the pain subsided for about 1½ weeks. Went back to the specialist who says this is a good sign, that we located the cause of the problem. He injected again and even though I’m feeling better, I think I still have some form of repetitive motion or carpal tunnel. Does this sound like RSI and/or carpal tunnel? I’ve done some reading on the web, and I have some of the symptoms and other’s I do not. Here were my symptoms before I was injected; they seemed to change during the last year.
- Occasional numbness in both hands (at night). Weakness in my right arm’s last two fingers (ring and little one).
- Radiating pain down to the elbow on the inside under my arm, both sides.
- Inside wrists hurt
- Upper back and neck
- Problems lifting, pushing, pulling
- Any strenuous work, yard work, horse training, painting, etc.
- Problems seems to go away, temporarily, if I exercise (boxing and kickology), and walking, or laying in a hot bath.
- A lot of pain when I lift weights, even 3 lbs.
Again, I apologize if this is lengthy. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Answer 1: If this was a nerve block then it should have stopped the pain coming upfrom your arms. I guess that your doctor was doing a nerve block to see if this was the case? Is your doctor’s conclusion that the pain is coming from the arms rather than the bulging disc? – your email is not quite clear on this point! If the problem is your arms then doing a nerve block just treats the symptoms rather than the cause, although this can be a help. Your symptoms do sound like RSI, in particular the neural aspects of it. Consider getting your neck/back checked out by a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist as a lot of RSI problems are neck related. Try to find a Physical Therapist who knows about Adverse Neural Dynamics (AND), sometimes called Adverse Neural Tension (ANT) as this is an important part of RSI. Also get yourself checked out for Trigger Points and Myofascial Pain (see the RSI-UK FAQ and web site for more information on AND, TPs etc.). Also get your posture checked out, again by a Physical Therapist who has a particular interest in this area – not all of them do!, or you could go to an Alexander Technique teacher Alexander Technique is particularly good for people with neck/back problems and teaches you correct posture and movement which is very important for anyone with RSI.
Answer 2: Yes, that could well be RSI. A side point that stood out to me: I think that resting one hand by using the other more quite commonly hurts the hand which is now taking on more work, so that’s something to watch out for.
Answer 3: Absolutely true. Please avoid causing RSI in your “good” hand. It has happened to me and many others! As it is usually your default hand/arm… which gets hurt first using your “weaker” other hand is more likely to cause additional problems. At points now my left hand, arm and or elbow hurts MORE than my default one!
Answer 4: Senior Welfare Adviser/Disability Co-ordinator, King’s College London, Macadam Building, London WC2R 2LS Tel: 0171 873 2530 Fax: 0171 873 2754. This message may have been typed, but on a typically bad RSI day it will have been produced using voice recognition software; please ignore any dictation errors I failed to notice.
Answer 5: One other point for concern: researchers (some at least) think that central systems may be involved in developing RSI. So when it hurts at one side, you may well be very vulnerable on the other side! And besides: typing may already have caused some damage to structures in the body at the side that still feels normal.
Answer 6: Yes. I used my left hand more, for a while, and that started showing symptoms almost immediately — it probably had before, I didn’t notice the very early ones in my right hand, really. I was quite lucky; as though the left hand and wrist are definitely injured they don’t hurt more or less all the time, like my right.
Answer 7: I am interested to know from all the voice users, what kind of speed/accuracy you can achieve. Do you have your own offices to work in, or are people tolerant of you talking to your computer?