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 SuccessStory: Severe RSI cleared up quickly

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armchairlinguist Posted - 07/19/2006 : 18:31:31
I've been meaming to post my story. There are bits of it around, but now that I'm doing really well I just wanted to put it up in case it will help others.

I developed RSI in April 2003 under the stress of finishing my undergraduate work and preparing to go to grad school. I experienced aching and burning in my wrists and forearms. Because I was then and had always been a heavy computer user (since I was 5!) I was quickly diagnosed with RSI. I rested and it went away a little in the summer, but came back with a vengeance in the fall with my school computer work and the stress of living abroad. My parents separated and my boyfriend dumped me in February. By June 2004, despite some PT, I was nearly disabled – simple activities like lifting shampoo bottles and opening doors were hard for me. I also had upper-back and neck pain.

Over the next two years, I went to a hand surgeon (but didn’t get surgery), massage therapist/acupuncturist, osteopath, chiropractor, two “somatic therapists”, and another PT. I did a lot of stretches, Rossiter soft-tissue therapy, and cardio workout. I still experienced intermittent return of my adolescent knee pain and in Feb 2005, developed foot pain and was fitted for orthotics. I saw small, mostly temporary benefits from these therapies. Something would work for a while, then not work as well.

In June 2005 I started trigger-point self-therapy and later saw several trigger point practitioners. I got slowly better, but still couldn’t manage typing, writing a lot, lifting heavy objects, or chopping a lot of vegetables – basically any hand-intensive activity. Despite this, I started applying for full-time jobs in Nov 2005. I worked for Borders for a short time, but going full-time killed my hands again, and I went back to part-time, even as I kept looking for full-time work. I bought The Mindbody Prescription in November 2005, but didn’t really accept it at that time.

In April 2006 I started my current job with accommodations for my hand issues: a special keyboard and mouse and Dragon speech recognition software. Even so, on the 4th day of the job, I ran out of endurance – my hands and vocal cords had both had enough. It was at that point that I decided to try the Sarno theory seriously, because I had run out of other options. I had recently read Nate’s page at, and decided to try something similar to what he did.

I basically had immediate (though partial) success. I was able to go on typing for two hours, where my previous max was ten minutes. After work I lifted light weights and emptied the dishwasher (I was kind of high on my success by that point!). I worked all the next day and the rest of that week, still using Dragon for some stuff, but typing more and more (though I continued to have some pain, and took frequent breaks). I added in other activities that had been hard or that I had avoided, like carrying shopping bags and emptying the dishwasher. My pain started to jump around a lot to silly places that had never hurt before, which was pretty darn convincing. I kept reading and rereading MBP, and I started to look at the patterns that my pain had, and saw that they matched TMS exactly. I was depressed (in 2002), and when I stopped being depressed, a few months later I started having pain. Pain went away or got less during less-stressful times and vice versa. Pain didn’t “make sense”.

Over the next two months, I got rid of the extra pillows I used to sleep comfortably, the orthotics I’d been wearing, the breaks I’d been taking, the therapy and self-therapy I was doing, and a whole host of accommodations that I had made to life with pain. I used Fred Amir’s theory of punishing and rewarding the unconscious to get rid of the last vestiges of pain at work and back pain on the train. I used the Schechter workbook for journaling, which helped me start the work. I stopped having to sleep extra hours to keep from having pain. I stopped having knee pain and my upper-back pain has receded a great deal. I still get it some, perhaps because it seems “legitimate” to me to be tense there. I’m currently working on challenging that. But basically I am no longer captive to the pain. I can walk, run, sit, type, ride my bike, play my clarinet, and cook with no fear. It's great.

It's not as easy as I guess I hoped it might be, though. Even though the pain got a lot less very quickly, bits of it are sticking around to remind me to do my work. Facing up to my low self-esteem, its origins, and the behaviors I've created to cope with it is hard. But it's way better than being a captive to the gremlin. :)

Wherever you go, there you are.
11   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
armchairlinguist Posted - 02/27/2007 : 12:48:30
Great question -- surprisingly, no. Not completely, anyway. They're reduced, but very much still there. If I press on a certain point on the upper side of my forearm, I still feel the "deep", achy, trigger point pain. Same deal with the lower and upper back. But they're 'latent' (according to the TrP theory) and they activate -- wait for it -- only when I'm under stress.

So don't worry about making them go away.

Wherever you go, there you are.
chrisb89 Posted - 02/27/2007 : 09:14:24
will do - thank you. If you don't mind me asking though - did your pressure points physically go away as well?
armchairlinguist Posted - 02/27/2007 : 08:44:17
Chris, you should do a search for some of my past posts as I've written at length about Amir elsewhere -- I'd repost, but I don't have time just now. I'm doing great these days. The occasional twinge in the upper back when under stress, that's about it.

Wherever you go, there you are.
chrisb89 Posted - 02/27/2007 : 06:24:41
Thanks for posting. I read through with interest.

Could you please expand on "Fred Amir’s theory of punishing and rewarding the unconscious", how does that work I'm not familiar with it?

Also, how have you been doing since you made this post? More progress I hope...
armchairlinguist Posted - 07/20/2006 : 11:55:50

I think I mentioned in one of your threads that I could have been diagnosed with DeQuervain's because the test was positive (when I did it on myself), but officially the only diagnosis I ever got was RSI. Possibly because my symptoms were more widespread so they didn't bother to test just the thumbs. I wasn't carpal tunnel or any of the common ones. I never had an EMG, but I doubt I had any nerve dysfunction since pain seemed to get through just fine...


Yes, I agree. I tend to want to use air quotes around "RSI" these days. I intend write to Nate -- I have already written to most of my past treaters to tell them how I got better, so now it's the turn of those people who really helped me!

Wherever you go, there you are.
marytabby Posted - 07/20/2006 : 08:54:24
Tennis Tom,
Yes, I see Dr. Martinez and he's saying I need to go back to the hand surgeon because he believes it is NOT TMS.
h2oskier25 Posted - 07/20/2006 : 08:09:09
Great Post.

I too, conquered what I thought was RSI, mostly thanks to Nate McNamara's site. I owe him a great deal, and have conversed with him via e-mail to tell him so. It's through his site that I found Sarno.

I try not to even use the "R" word anymore, because I don't believe it's a disorder AT ALL.


tennis tom Posted - 07/20/2006 : 08:07:57
Originally posted by Maryalma8

Was any part of your RSI diagnosed as DeQuervain's tendinitis? I have that going on.


Hi Maryalma8,

Have you seen any of the TMS doctors in Massachusetts for your symptoms? Dr. Sarno discusses RSI at length in his new book THE DIVIDED MIND. I strongly reccommend you read it. He makes a good point that, since the turn of the century, people have been feverishly typing away at manual typewriters with no epedemic of RSI until recently.

Boston area--Physicians & Psychologists
Eugenio Martinez, MD
The Spine Center- New England Baptist Hospital Bone and Joint Institute
125 Parker Hill Avenue
Boston, MA 02120
(617) 754-5246


Eugenio Martinez, MD
Pro Sports Orthopedics
200 Providence Highway
Dedham, MA 02026
(781) 326-7108
(781) 326-5839 Fax

Back Sense by Ronald Siegel, PsyD.

Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.
20 Long Meadow Road
Lincoln, MA 01773
(781) 259-3434

East Sandwich
Jay E. Rosenfeld, MD
311 Service Road
East Sandwich, MA 02537
(508) 833-4000

Fall River
Douglas R. Johnson, MD
363 Highland Ave.
Fall River, MA 02720
(508) 679-7156

Alexander Angelov, MD
(781) 598-4321

marytabby Posted - 07/20/2006 : 07:07:48
Was any part of your RSI diagnosed as DeQuervain's tendinitis? I have that going on.
Curiosity18 Posted - 07/19/2006 : 22:56:25
Congratulations on your success! Sounds like when you were ready, the work/concepts sank in. I find it interesting that sometimes the symptoms stick around intermittently in order to remind us to stay ahead of the gremlin. Your post was truly inspirational.

Singer_Artist Posted - 07/19/2006 : 19:04:15
This is wonderful to hear, ACL..thank you for sharing it with us! I cannot wait til I can write a Success Story myself!

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