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 advisers fussing over you definitely 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.