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 Farewell, career ending RSI!!!

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DrGUID Posted - 08/31/2007 : 08:07:51
Hi all,

I thought I'd post my RSI recovery success story to date as I've been lurking ever since I read the mindbody prescription in May.

I'm based in the UK and haven't had TMS officially diagnosed. But I fit the profile of a typical Sarno high achiever (PhD, good career, nice house, started my own business etc.) and the orthodox medical community have ruled out anything serious.

I'm a 35 year old computer programmer and have had mild RSI for 10 years. I learned to live with it but a couple of years ago it got really bad - it went from one arm to both arms, then got so bad that I'd start work at 8am on a Monday and by 8:15 I'd be in constant pain for the rest of the week. In March it got so bad I was making plans to give up my successful and lucrative career. After keeping quite about it for 8 years, I finally plucked up courage to go to the doctor. Since then I've been to a succession of doctors and physiotherapists who haven't found anything wrong. I've tried medication, diet, exercise, posture changes etc. but nothing seemed to make significant difference.My typing technique is pretty crazy, but I've known touch typists to have big problems and awful typists to have no problems whatsoever. There is a guy I work with who hammers the keys like you wouldn't believe, yet he doesn't seem to have any problems!

I've had no problems accepting Dr Sarno's theories. Looking at my earlier life they certainly explain certain episodes in my life, like the upset stomach whenever I went on holidays with my family, the unfortunate vomiting episode before my first holy communion, the toothache when I didn't want to go out in the evening...

Life in general (apart from the RSI) is very good indeed. In fact this may be the problem because I had dealt with just about every big problem in my life. Consequently RSI was starting to dominate my every thought.

Since reading Dr Sarno's books and lurking here, I'd say I am 75% better. I think I had a bit of a headstart, as even before I discovered Dr Sarno's theories I would say that I kind of guessed that my problems were psycological and not physical. None of the healthcare professionals I spoke to made me aware of this, though I suspect they suspected it was. A big clue to me is that my RSI gots worse in hot weather (which stresses me out) whereas I think structural illnesses like arthritis and rheumatism tend to get better in hot weather (hence all those old folk moving to Florida). My progress is all the more impressive considering the amount of typing I am able to do now compared to 3 months ago (I've just typed these 1000 words as well!).

As a programmer I use a computer all day - that's all I do. I still have some pain when typing and mousing, but by the time I get home it's pretty much gone, and there's certainly no lingering of pain over the weekend like I used to have. The arm I don't use the mouse with is much better. My fingers are still a bit stiff, but my elbows (where the RSI originated) are 100% OK, and my wrists aren't too bad either. It no longer hurts when I chop vegetables or wash dishes either. Yesterday I worked a 9.5 hour day without a lunch break and felt fine. The last time I did that I was in agony for months! I'm still worried about reading about RSI, but those three letters no longer bring me out in a cold sweat. I had a good chuckle about how far from the truth my new employer's occupational health computer based training was!

What's interesting is that I am now seem to be aware of when the blood supply to my hands is flowing properly - it feels nice and relaxing. When the blood flow isn't working properly I feel really stiff and arthritic. In time I think I will be able to induce the proper blood flow myself.

I've had a lot of what is probably the system imperative - I had a few days of bad eyestrain. I've had to limp into work a few days because of stupid leg pains, and I've had a lot of toothache recently (I had my wisdom teeth out years ago, so I presume the brain knows that's a good place to initiate pain). I find I now have similar thoughts about toothache that I had about RSI…. Oh dear, I have toothache, better go and see the dentist, I hope my Wisdom teeth aren't impacted, that can get really serious, I bet my holiday is going to be ruined because of it… etc. etc.

I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what I might be raging about. I believe it probably stems from being pushed into achieving a lot as a child, although I am now responsible for pushing myself. I'm currently reading the Divided Mind. The part that really struck a raw nerve (pardon the expression) was at the end of the chapter (I think it was by the rheumatologist Andrea Leonard-Segal) when it states that it's OK to be average . I've always strived to avoid doing anything average. I need to think about this. I suspect that when I finally figure out what my rage is, the pain will go forever.

My tips for beating RSI:

* Read and re-read the Dr. Sarno books. Start with Mindbody Prescription, then the Divided Mind. Read them slowly. Stop and think about any parts of them that are particularly relevant to you.
* Don't go to the doctor.
* Don't tell your employer, as getting occupation health advisors fussing over you definately makes things worse.
* Don't pay too much attention to correct posture, mice, keyboards etc., they may be red herrings.
* Try to keep calm in work. If your job is stressful, cut your hours or get a less stressful job.
* Take plenty of breaks if doing an intense job such as programming.
* Don't bother with anti-inflammatories etc.
* Be more selfish. Do what your inner child want to do!
* Don't worry - your career isn't over.
* Don't dwell on pain.
* Don't panic when you read about carpal tunnel syndrome etc. etc. I guess this is a particular problem for Americans as when I went to NY a couple of years ago the newspapers and magazines seemed full of medical adverts for various syndromes, we don't get that in the UK much. The carpal tunnel syndrome advert in the inflight magazine scared me half to death!
* My RSI is (was!) probably worse than yours. I'm getting better, and I'm hopeful of a total recovery. So can you.
10   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
HilaryN Posted - 09/08/2007 : 15:07:59
It's great to hear of your successes.

Here's the Success Story forum:

It'd be great if you could add your stories there - either copy and paste or post a link there.

Hilary N
YogaKym Posted - 09/08/2007 : 12:49:54
My story is somewhat similar to DrGUID's. I am age 51 and a web developer. After 22 years in the computer business, I developed a general RSI in March 2005. I had started having numbness and tingling in fingertips and pain in fingers, hands, wrists, shoulders and neck. Almost overnight, the only time I wasn't in pain became when I was flat on my back with my neck tilted slightly to the right.

My employer's medical dept told me I'd probably never type again full time and actually SUGGESTED to me that I file workman's comp. But having had a TMJ problem from 1985-1992 (which was resolved by neuromuscular treatment by a specialist, instead of the surgery recommended to me by one of this country's most well thought-of superclinics) I ignored that advice. I continued working in spite of the pain, and immediately sought treatment (from the same specialist who helped me with my TMJ disorder back in 1992, who was fortunately still in business, though now only part-time). He was able to get the muscles in my neck and shoulders to unlock enough that I was able to get some relief. That, along with other improvements I made to the stress-filled, non-stop way I was living my life, allowed me to slowly improve over two years to the point I became pain free on most days. But I still was having to use 'crutches' for a lot of things--like using pillows under my arms when I would drive a car, like taking breaks from typing every half hour, and like not lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds.

During my recovery, I gained an understanding from the specialist who treated me about why good circulation and oxygenation is so important. He talked about the effects of stress and chronic muscle tension. Toward the end of 2006, I started looking to understand WHY I was so prone to muscle tension in the first place. I eventually found one of Dr. Sarno's books on the internet. Right away, it was obvious to me that I was a classic case of TMS.

Within one month of following Dr. Sarno's program and journaling daily, I was able to stop using pillows when driving and I was able to lift virtually any heavy object I chose, without any symptoms afterward. I remember one particular evening at home when I felt I'd won a huge battle within myself-- after lifting a 186-pound Tempurpedic bed around with no pain/muscle tenseness afterward. At work, I was typing all day, with my only breaks being lunchtime and bathroom breaks--yet without any symptoms in my hands. And the tension in my arms/shoulders was eliminated most of the time. I finally started feeling 100% back to normal.

Since last winter I've had only one real setback--this past month when we had a real, live disaster-recovery situation at the office, requiring large amounts of overtime and stress on the part of myself and my co-workers. The past two weeks, I've had a little minor pain in my fingers on and off, minor shoulder aches, and some head tension. It bugs the heck out of me that I have to go back to journaling, reading the book, and applying it, but I'm doing it daily again now and I'm winning. One lesson I've learned from this is that as long as I'm in the computer business (in my heart of hearts, I want to retire from this field and get into something else that interests me) I need to keep journaling regularly, especially in times of stress. I need to remember to check myself regularly for muscle tension when it starts to occur, and when it does, to ask myself what's really bothering me. Keep thinking psychological.

I think the thing that has meant the most to me about Dr. Sarno's program is finally feeling that I have the weapons within MYSELF to be able to overcome the natural fears that come after once being diagnosed with an RSI.

vegomatic Posted - 09/04/2007 : 23:18:29

I have been typing for years with no pad to elevate my wrists, no ergonomic keyboard, a terrible posture, and I sit in a unconfortable chair. There is no pain.
JaniceG Posted - 09/01/2007 : 10:51:38
thanks, armchair...I have been journaling and trying to come to terms with the repressed rage I have from going through horrific stress and life changes over the past few years. For the past 2 years, it all seemed to settle down and I seemed to having a happy life again, and now this. I am really stressed out running around to all these doctors and having all these tests. I have to go through this, though, or I won't get disabilty, and I am in too much pain to possibly go back to work right now.
It's just really tough giving up my active life style and sitting around the house all day thinking I'll never work on computers again. My one ray of hope is that I'm starting to get some use of my right arm back. I still have a lot of swelling over my shoulder blade. I can't even lean back on a chair or lay on my back because the muslces are so sore from being in spasm.
So, yes, I need some encourgement that not all hope is lost. I want to get back to work creating catalogs and doing data entry. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

armchairlinguist Posted - 08/31/2007 : 20:56:32
I have read the Sarno books. Sometimes I get better for a while, then ultimately have another setback.

Janice -- the fact that you get better for a while, then set back, strongly indicates that you are dealing with TMS.

Your career is not over. I thought mine was before it started, but I'm at work full-time these days (and at home posting on TMSHelp, heh) and not a twinge.

The pinched nerve business is probably just the usual nonsense.

Then,suddenly, my whole back and neck went into spasm.

Now, see, why would this happen? Even if RSI were real (it most probably isn't), it 'should' just come on gradually. Sudden spasm makes no sense whatsoever -- except in TMS! TMS can do whatever it wants, practically.

What else have you done as far as the TMS work, beyond reading? I think I have read some of your posts but I've forgotten what your strategies have been. Time to change them up, it sounds like, and forge on. You'll get there.

Wherever you go, there you are.
justme Posted - 08/31/2007 : 20:02:50
I agree with the posture, ergonomics etc. With "diagnosed" acid reflux I was told to:
not eat spicy foods
not eat late at night
sleep with bed elevated at head
not lie down after eating

Foods do not differ in terms of severity of my symptoms
How can I not eat late at night? I have five kids to feed and by the time I get around to myself it sometimes is late.
Sleeping with bed elevated is ridiculous. How is my husband supposed to sleep in same bed as me?
Laying down after eating actually lessens my symptoms.

All of the doctors reccomendations were creating MORE stress in my life. Changing the way you eat, sleep are stressful in an of themselves. Especially when none of the recommendations were helping (and my husband and I were sliding off the bottom of the bed).

As my young children would say "poop" on those suggestions

Just Me
JaniceG Posted - 08/31/2007 : 18:50:02
Wow, that is an inspiring post. I am going through a horrible case of RSI right now, as I sit here typing with my left arm only. I do data entry all day and we got really busy. I started to feel pain in my neck and shoulder but it wasn't that bad so I ignored it. Then,suddenly, my whole back and neck went into spasm. That was 2 months ago and I am not back at work yet. I am sitting around all day depressed that my career on computers is over. I can't use my right arm at all at this point. I saw a neurologist who says it's a pinched nerve or herniated disc in my neck and suggested surgery. I went for an MRI and EMG 2 weeks ago and have to go back to the neurolgist on the 4th for results and what to do. I have read the Sarno books. Sometimes I get better for a while, then ultimately have another setback. Your story has given me hope,though. Maybe I will eventually get back to the job I used to enjoy so much.

miehnesor Posted - 08/31/2007 : 14:05:23
Good Work! This post belongs in the Success Stories section.
Gemma_Louise Posted - 08/31/2007 : 11:00:08
Congratulations, it's really great to read positive stories like this. I agree that it's bad to pay too much attention to posture, etc. I've suffered with back pain and RSI type pains and the more attention I paid to posture/ergonomics, etc, the worse the pain became! Ignorance is bliss as they say.
armchairlinguist Posted - 08/31/2007 : 09:14:56
Congratulations, DrGUID! You join the long list of us who have been liberated. :-)

Wherever you go, there you are.

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