Trying to Identify this RSI

I was wondering if you could help me identify what it is called from what I am feeling when I type. I would like to self treat myself, but I would like to know what it is exactly that I have and what the best treatment is. So here goes… After about 5 minutes of typing, I get a burning/achy feeling in the top of my hand (not into my fingers) that extends down past my wrist about 3-4 inches. The wrist area gets the burning/achy feeling on top and bottom. I know running my wrists and hands under cold or ice water or a self-massage on my hand/wrist area feels good and seems to help.

Does anyone know how I should be treating this or what it is called? I just picked up “another” book on RSI and the “Trigger Point Self Massage” and I was hoping that this would help. I am a very fit person and I work out. I am a programmer for my career so I am really hoping that I can find a way to help this condition so it doesn’t worsen. I don’t want to see a doctor on this for fear of being dropped by insurance and I still have to put bread on the table for my family. Taking a 6 month break from the computer is not an option for me. I appreciate any help you can give me or suggestions.

Comment 1: I don’t know if I can help, and I certainly can’t put a name to things (whether that’s necessary anyway is another issue) but here’s a few thoughts. If it’s happening when you’re doing something specific then it’s probably something to do with the way that you’re doing that thing that’s causing the problem. In my (limited) experience, pains in the hand generally come from something than you are doing with your hand, wrist, and fingers – not always, I know, but it’s a sensible place to start looking before you examine other parts of your posture, neck position, etc. And at this stage, I’d suggest that rather than looking at books to treat the symptoms (though I do like the trigger point ones myself), look at finding the cause, look at books that tell you how to hold your hands and arms properly when typing, etc. I think there’s a book on the RSI-UK web site entitled RSI: a guide for computer users, or something similar – I seem to recall that had some good stuff in it.

I know that I started getting pain in the top of my hand, radiating a bit down the fingers but mostly up through the wrist and into the forearm – and I tracked the problem down to the way I was resting my hand on my trackball – I can get the same if I use the cursor keys a lot – basically because my wrist is bent so that my hand points upwards. Bends on the wrist can cause a lot of nasties – whether the hand is bent too far up or down. Burning sensations usually mean that there’s either a trapped nerve or reduced blood supply – basically something’s going wrong there anyway… or it could be an over-tired muscle causing a lactic acid build up there, suggesting that you’re over-using something. Whatever it is, look at the way you hold your hands, wrists and fingers when you type and use a mouse/trackball – is your wrist flat in line with your forearm and top of hand? Are your fingers and hand really as relaxed as they can be or are you holding any tension anywhere (compare a relaxed hand or a piano player’s loose rounded position with what happens when you make a claw and draw your fingers up and back…)?

Do you hammer the keys rather than touch them lightly? Do you grip the mouse? Are you straining to reach keys instead of moving your hands around? Do you rest your hands on the keyboard/mouse when not actively using them (try letting them hang by your sides instead)? Do you only use a few fingers, perhaps again under a lot of tension (do you touch type or “poke”)? And so on. My personal feeling is that whatever style of typing you use you should do it in a way that suits your hand size and shape when it is totally relaxed – so get your hand hanging there totally relaxed (and straight with your wrist and arm – but your fingers can bend downwards if they want to) and then introduce it to the keyboard and see what happens.

If you do find any problems then look at the way you position yourself as well as learning to relax (e.g. adjust your chair height until you can get your arms and hands straight, move your keyboard and mouse until they are within a comfortable reach, etc). Then once you’ve checked all this out look to see if you’re craning your neck as this can often trap nerves which radiate down the arm and into the hand too. But I’d start with sorting your hands and wrists out first. Oh yeah – then make sure you don’t compromise your upper back/shoulders by getting your hands right but reaching forward or stretching to the keyboard – you must keep your elbows back and shoulders and neck relaxed too – it ain’t always easy! Hope you get somewhere.

Comment 2: Sounds a bit like my symptoms. I have tendinitis.

Comment 3: Try putting the mouse on a tray on your knee. This stops having to extend your arm which in itself is a problem when surfing the net.

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