Question: Is it true that working out (specifically swimming or upper body workouts) can actually make your RSI worse? I always feel better after working out, but I hope that is not just in my head. Any other experiences out there to make this condition better?
Answer 1: I think it depends what you suffer from. Mine is primarily a circulation type problem, so any aerobic/cardiac exercise is beneficial. Remember the golden rules 1. If it hurts, stop. 2. If you suffer afterwards, don’t do it again!!!
Answer 2: Swimming has been brilliant for my RSI.
Answer 3: Obviously it depends on your condition/problem but for me, with neck/shoulder/upper back muscle problems exercise seems to make it much better, both in the short term and, aches and stiffness aside, longer term. I think this is blood flow and generally warming things up (short term) and flexibility/muscle strengthening (longer term). As long as you don’t over-do it. I think you have to be extremely careful to do lots of warm up and warm down exercises and stretches – I find I cool down very quickly and get a lot of stiffness and pain if I don’t do a lot of neck and upper body stretches swiftly after exercising said parts.
In a lot of these cases, as I’ve read and as my NHS physio has commented (and recommended a few strengthening and stretching exercises), there is an overdevelopment of some upper back muscles and/or a weakness in the lower trapezius muscle – this can cause the shoulders to “sit” wrongly and put more tension on the neck and upper back area (or something like that). This is supposedly caused by the rather hunched computing/typing posture that we adopt. So anything that can address this by exercising and strengthening the mid back muscles may well be good.
Swimming sounds a likely candidate – I’m also finding climbing seems to be helping to some degree – though I must say it isn’t curing all the problems. (The physio thinks it’s a good idea both from a stretching and strengthening point). There’s many exercises in other fields too (pilates has been raised before). I think specific targeted weights exercises would also be very useful – my physio is quite specific that I need to strengthen the lower trapezius (which are the stabilizing muscles for the shoulder and act antagonistically with those that are too “strong” – ?) and not bring in the upper muscles as they’re already too strong in relation to the lowers.
The other aspect is stretching over-tight pectoral muscles – again I can see that swimming would be very good for that. So personally I’m a great exercise fan – providing you’re exercising and strengthening/stretching the appropriate muscles for your condition – which may need some expert advice specific to your condition (I’m definitely not an expert, though trying to learn). If only I had the time and energy to do more…