I used to suffer from repetitive strain injury, which was pain in the hands and arms, apparently caused by excessive use of the computer. I had that for 13 years, and I couldn’t use the keyboard or mouse on the computer; I was completely dependent on voice recognition, for about the last ten years. A few years ago, I read an article about somebody who got better from repetitive strain injury, using John Sarno’s book, “The Mind-Body Prescription”. I decided to read the book, and I read it about three times, but I didn’t get better, I was still feeling pain. I gave up on it then; I was really enthusiastic about the book, but I decided it wasn’t working for me because I was still getting pain.
But then, it was about a year later that my plumber came round to do some work, and we were chatting away about all sorts of things, and then all of a sudden he said “I used to get terrible back pain, but that’s all a thing of the past thanks to…” And then he couldn’t remember the name of the book, and I immediately thought of John Sarno’s book because it talked about back pain. So I said, “Was it John Sarno’s book, ‘Mind-Body Prescription’?” And he said “Oh yeah, that’s it, when I got to page 57 I was cured completely!” So he was really enthusiastic about it, and I joined in his enthusiasm but I said it hadn’t worked for me, but his enthusiasm was quite infectious, so I thought maybe I should try again, give it another go.
At that time, I was getting quite bad headaches at certain times of the month, and I was able to stave off the headaches by using vitamin pills, but I was having to use more and more of them and I didn’t always remember to take them because I’m very bad at remembering to take pills. A couple of weeks later, it came to that time of the month, and I’d been forgetting to take the pills and I thought oh gosh, I’m in for a really bad headache this month. But then I thought about John Sarno’s book, and I thought “No, I’m not going to get the headache.” The next day I could feel the headache coming on and I thought “No, I’m not going to get this headache!” And I thought about the book, and the principles in it, and the headache went away. I was so encouraged by that success I thought great, I’m going to have a go at the RSI now, because having that little success gave me a lot of confidence.
What I decided to do was to start typing little bits every day and just slowly build up the typing bit by bit, and increase the amount I was doing week by week. For the first couple of months I really didn’t notice any difference; I was trying to increase the typing, but I was getting little bits of pain with it. In the book, Dr. Sarno says that you should get psychotherapy if you don’t see any progress, and so I thought about that. It was a bit hard to get my mind to accept the idea that I should get psychotherapy because I consider myself to be a well-balanced person, I had not had any emotional traumas as a child, and there’s a bit of a stigma associated with it as well.
I decided to email Dr. Sarno and see if there’s any TMS psychotherapists over here, and he replied and said there aren’t, but if I could find a psychotherapist and lend them my book to read. In the meantime I had contacted Harriet Young, the person who got better whose article I’d read, and she gave me lots of encouragement which was really helpful. She also mentioned a book by Brandon Bays, called “The Journey”. Brenton Bays is a non-medical person, but she got better, she recovered from a tumor by uncovering the emotional causes from that, and she’d developed a process to uncover hidden emotional causes that could be causing pain, or other physical conditions. There’s lots of Journey practitioners over here in the UK, so I was able to get an appointment to see one more or less straightaway.
After my session with the Journey therapist, it was still a couple of weeks and I still didn’t notice any difference; but then, after that, I did start making small advances, and I did start noticing a difference. One day, I made this small discovery, which was previously I’d been getting pain, and it could come a few hours after the typing; it didn’t necessarily come at the time of the typing. But now, I made the discovery that I was actually getting a little bit of pain at the time of the typing, which was great because now I felt in more control. So, if I felt the pain I would stop typing for the rest of the day, and usually by the next day the pain would have gone because I would still be thinking about the principles in Dr. Sarno’s book, and telling myself that the pain wasn’t structural, it was psychological. I felt much more confident and in control, because if I knew that the pain was coming at the time of typing I could stop, whereas previously, the fact that the pain could come hours after the typing meant I was a bit scared to overdo it. It was really effective in making me scared to do any typing.
Then there came a time at work when I had to go to a one-day course, and it was going to be on a computer which didn’t have voice recognition, so I could have arranged to have the voice recognition installed on that computer but I decided not to. So, I did the course, and I did lots of typing and mousing up until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and at that time, my hands were a little bit sore and achy, but there were no worse effects. A little time after that, I was having memory problems on my PC, so we decided to take the voice recognition off the computer, to see if that was what was causing the memory problems; previously I wouldn’t have agreed to that, because there was no way I could manage without the voice recognition, but I agree to that. We removed it, and by the afternoon, the results were inconclusive so I decided to stay with the voice recognition off the computer.
The next morning, I rang the administrator to put it back on, but there was no reply from his phone so I think he was out sick. I thought about ringing his colleague, but I didn’t actually get around to it. His colleague rang me that afternoon, and I asked her to put the voice recognition back on, but that was nearly two days of typing with no pain, which was a great advance. After that, I decided I wasn’t going to use voice recognition until midday each day; by September 2005, I was down to using voice recognition just one hour a day. By October 2005, I had completely stopped using the voice recognition. I consider myself to be completely cured since that time; I’ve not used voice recognition since then.
Up until last year, I was working still in the same computing job that I’d had before, and I was just working four days a week but I was doing lots of surfing on the Internet at home. I now have no fear, and I’m able to do a full-time job using the computer, no restrictions. I consider myself to be completely cured from RSI now, so I definitely recommend Dr. Sarno’s book to anybody, and I would say that if you don’t get immediate results, do persist with it. See, if you can get encouragement from other people, read the success stories on the Wiki, these are all things which will encourage you and help you, which I think is important. If you still don’t get results, if you’re able to see a TMS professional do that, or think about getting psychotherapy if you can find a psychotherapist who believes in the mind-body connection.
Dr. David Schechter: I’m speaking today on behalf of the Seligman Medical Institute, a research foundation devoted to investigating the science, and the outcomes, of a mind-body treatment programs for back pain and other disorders. Today I’d like to discuss repetitive strain injury, or RSI as it’s known. There are many patients that I see with chronic arm pain; many of them are involved in a field where they use their arms a lot. For example, computer operators, data entry people, and workers who do repetitive work with their arms – assembly and the like – they’ve typically been through appropriate medical care (standard treatments, including physical therapy, massage, stretching, myofascial release, sometimes injections and exercise), and the people I see are the ones that don’t get better from conventional care.
It certainly makes sense for these individuals to have an ergonomic assessment of their workstation, and to follow accepted posture and ergonomic principles, and if they get better from that, then they don’t need to see me for this mind-body program. But some of the difficult cases that don’t respond to this treatment are often offered surgery without a tremendous promise that the surgery is going to be effective. I see these individuals and I assess very carefully their personality factors, past history of stress-related pain, various emotional triggers related to work or to their outside life, and I find that on examination, even though there may be color changes in the hands or arms, or minor sensory changes, or weakness, I find that the vast majority of these people who have the other appropriate diagnostic criteria improve with a mind-body program. It involves no medications and no injections; the program is about education, it’s about being psychologically aware, it’s about expressing emotion, and it’s about moving beyond the fear of using the arms that seems to be such an important factor in getting well. It’s about accepting a new diagnosis, and learning to think psychologically.