Question: I’m writing on behalf of an old mate I hadn’t spoken to for about a year. I spoke to him yesterday to discover he’s suffering very badly from RSI. From what little I know about it, he exhibited classic symptoms which rapidly became debilitating due to the intense pain he was suffering. He’s at the point now where he can’t even hold a book. Days staring at walls have turned into weeks, have turned into months. He used to be *very* active. The result was clinical anxiety, which has grown into clinical depression. He’s gone way past crying about his situation and is now on prozac to stop him topping himself. There have been obvious repercussions on family life. He now spends three nights a week at his dad’s because he can’t look after the kids properly anymore or doesn’t want them to see their dad the way he is. He’s only forty-odd years old.
Nothing he has been prescribed helps the pain. He’s been through the anti-inflames and the pain killers. The best I could suggest him was to try smoking pot as I know it helps some arthritis sufferers. Only trouble is he seems resigned to the fact that nothing’s gonna work, the medical system has failed him etc, etc. I don’t doubt what he says, it just makes the job of making him see some light at the end of the tunnel all that harder. Does anyone have any experience of cannabis and RSI, or any other suggestions as to how I can help the guy? I know someone is going to suggest local help groups and stuff but from the sound of him that would be very difficult at the moment. I think he needs some immediate, effective relief, some means of *self* medication that will not only ease the pain but also give him back the control he obviously feels he has lost over his predicament. I’d be very grateful for your thoughts, and I’m not taking the piss when I say anyone who can help might even be saving a life.
Answer 1: I’ve found that cannabis can help with RSI. But that was in the context that I was used to using it anyway, from time to time, before I got RSI. It doesn’t sound as if that’s the case with your friend, or he probably would have tried it already. If he’s not a cannabis user already, it’s probably not a good idea to try to persuade him to embark on it at this point. It is after all illegal and knowing that might just increase the stress for him. You’re right in thinking that regaining some measure of control helps a lot. One of the best ways of doing this is through signing up for some form of body work. A lot of people on this list have found that the Alexander technique helped them. Yoga can also help, and so can physiotherapy. Alexander sessions tend to be rather expensive, so he might want to try the physiotherapy first. His GP should be able to refer him to the local physio clinic. Some physios are better than others at dealing with RSI. The first one I saw wasn’t much help, but the second one was absolutely brilliant. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (0171-242-1941) can help with finding a physio trained in the treatment of RSI, if he can afford to go privately.
Although these bodywork things do need the help of a therapist or tutor, it’s not a passive thing like being given a prescription. The good thing about bodywork is that it helps you understand your own body, as you do the exercises/techniques, so you begin to see where the pain is coming from, and then you can begin to get a handle on how to change things. If you want to say what area of the country he lives in, there might be someone on the list who knows what’s available locally. Depression is unfortunately one of the big pitfalls. The worst thing about it is the feeling you describe, that there’s no point in trying anything. This is where a local self-help group could make a big difference. Even if he’s not keen on the idea, it might be worth to see whether there is a group in his area. The group members are likely to know what sort of treatment is available locally, who the good physios are, how to get low-cost Alexander lessons, and so on, plus it helps a *lot* to hear from other people who are dealing with the same problems. He could also ring the RSIA helpline (01895 – 431134, Mon-Fri 11.30 – 4). The RSIA have an information pack which is really helpful. He can get the pack by sending 3.95ukp to the RSIA at Chapel House, 152-154 High Street, Yiewsley, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7BE.
Answer 2: I’ve been there and I’m getting better. A year ago I couldn’t hold a book, do up my own trousers, care for my children at all, and it is possible to get better. Your friend needs to see Dr Richard Pearson who is a rheumatologist with a specialty in RSI and then to go on a pain management programme, two that I know of, one at St Thomas’s Hospital London, one at Unstead Park Hospital nr Godalming. I went on the latter, 4 weeks residential, home at weekends, and it has saved my life.
Answer 3: Marijuana does not help with RSI. It in fact might make you more aware of the symptoms and more stressed out. Carpal Tunnel needs to be treated aggressively by stretching and body awareness. There is a book I am trying and so far several stretches have helped me:
“Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome” by Sharon J. Butler
Published by New Harbinger Publications in Oakland, California. USA
5674 Shattuck Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
Note: Exercises on page 72 and 73 have been useful in reducing overall pain. These exercises are based on Hellerwork therapy and talks about connective tissue and Fascia throughout the body. Very interesting.
Answer 4: Interested in your email. Warm thoughts going out to your friend from this corner of the world. Any way you can encourage this friend of yours to get onto this list and/or SOREHAND? That’s what we are here for, to help one another. Please tell him there is help out there, and in UK they are making exciting discoveries in possible causes of RSI. This is no time to give up, if only to see what happens! Also, really important for him to get some exercise – inactivity just makes the whole pain/depression thing far worse! Could be a large part of his problem is being deconditioned. Move! Make attempt to get out somewhere at least once a day. Make goals achievable ones.
Answer 5: Just a note to thank you all for your thoughts and advice. Interesting to note the opinions on smoking dope. A third party source, involved in cannabis activism, seems to think it does work, but I personally think it’s a mysterious drug that works on different people in different ways. I’m passing on the info, and will try to get my friend involved in some kind of self help group. I also try to keep you posted, though I move to Brazil in just over two weeks, which is why I was desperate for info quick so I can get him moving before I go. I can’t ask him to join the list himself as he’s not on the net. Thanks again.
Answer 6: I think everything has been said but I would just add the following that might help your friend. I don’t think that dope will have all that much effect; it didn’t for me, as I suspect that his problems are mainly with his nerves. I know that it has been found to be beneficial for MS sufferers, but I think that that’s probably because MS is a muscular problem. I believe that pain killers probably work better on muscles and joint disorders rather than nerves. If he doesn’t smoke, dope socially anyway then it’s probably not worth starting. Tricyclic antidepressants are probably a better bet if anything, even in very low doses, but no doubt his doctor has already prescribed them. I think that he really should try and push for better help from a physiotherapist or osteopath. I was very badly advised when I began to have problems and now I have paid the price. My problems sounded almost as bad as your friends and I am much younger than him! I still suffer quite badly, but it is improving almost to the point of thinking about working again. It just takes so long but I’m sure that most people can improve if they have exactly the right advice on posture, stretching etc. It is also important to try and be as active as possible; walking, swimming or jogging if you can do it. If you can find something to occupy the time than that is half the battle. I hope this helps.
Answer 7: I was very sorry hear of the problems your friend is having. I don’t know whether or not cannabis can, in itself, help to relieve RSI – what I do know, however, is that it is a powerful drug which affects the mental state, and it is always inadvisable to take such drugs whilst also taking drugs such as Prozac as they may interact and this can have an effect on the levels of the prescribed drug in the blood, as well as possibly causing the prescribed drug to react in a way which was not intended by the doctor. If your friend has been diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression then this must be treated along with the pain and the RSI. We have all felt depressed (who hasn’t?) but few of us can be aware of the depth of despair and the umbrella of blackness which surrounds sufferers of this condition.
Doctors sometimes do not deal with this condition properly – preferring to try “miracle” drugs such as Prozac to a proper, in depth, assessment of the depression and referral to a clinical psychologist who can do a great deal to help to relieve the problem. If your friend is not being treated properly then someone needs to take up his baton for him to try to get things moving as he will not be in any condition to push this forward himself. All the best.