RSI update: Success!

by Suw on August 2, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but I’ve been a bit busy lately and have barely had time to pause for breath.

Several months ago I started working on strengthening my shoulders at the gym – lots of machine work to try and improve the strength of my whole upper back. I’d noticed that some nights, I’d wake up with pins and needles in my hand and find my shoulders had sorts of ‘collapsed’ in on themselves, and I suspected that maybe that wasn’t helping things. I’ve always had weak shoulders, so figured it couldn’t hurt to do some work on them.

When we moved into our new flat I finally had space to set up a proper office, so I now have my old desk and chair, brought up from Dorset and no longer have to work from the sofa. That, in itself, is a joy. It’s so good to have a door to close at the end of the evening! I’m again pretty sure that my lack of a proper desk and chair have contributed significantly to my RSI. Sitting on the sofa didn’t so much encourage bad posture as force it upon me.

On the advice of my friend Sydney, I bought a Wacom Bamboo Fun graphics tablet and pen, which I now use instead of a mouse/trackpad. Although at the lower end of the graphics tablet market (Sydney has the Cintiq, which is gorgeous but way too expensive for me!), it does me very well. It took me a while to get used to using it instead of the trackpad, but now that I am used to it, I’d never go back. It’s much, much easier for editing long documents because you have much better control of the cursor, plus it encourages larger movements than the tiny, fine motor control movements required on a trackpad. It is, in short, fabulous. And sometimes I even use it for drawing!

Kevin bought me a laptop stand, so now I have my office exactly as I want it: Laptop on stand, Wacom tablet to the left (I’m left-handed), and my lovely Apple bluetooth keyboard in front of the laptop. It works incredibly well as a set up and I’d highly recommend anyone who’s working with a laptop as their main machine to experiment with it as a set-up. I also no longer feel the need to get myself a new screen, as having the laptop screen at a decent height also makes it feel somehow like the screen’s not so small! Not quite sure why…

I’ve been following the exercises in Robin McKenzie’s 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life, which has really helped me to sort out my own back pain – particularly when I put my back out three weeks ago and could barely move. I usually would have gone to a chiro but I rather lost faith in my chiro in London and didn’t feel I had time to find a new one. As it turns out, McKenzie’s exercises are incredibly helpful and have really given my back a new lease of life.

About a month ago, I went to see a consultant physiotherapist at the University College London Hospital. She did a variety of tests – including a nerve induction test which confirmed that I had mild carpal tunnel syndrome. I explained what I’d been doing and she was very pleased with the changes that I’ve made. Indeed, she said that I’ve done pretty much everything she would have advised me to do.

She also told me to expect all my RSI symptoms to vanish within three months. As they had already subsided considerably, I was ready to believe her. In actual fact, I’ve barely had any problems at all over the last month and have trouble the last time remembering when I had a serious attack overnight.

I still have a way to go in terms of improving my shoulder and back strength, and retraining my posture, but I feel pretty confident now that my RSI is under control.

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