Why our society is sitting on a pain time bomb

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  • This was total agony for me – do you get this pain problem too?
  • Why computers, smartphones and iPads are ticking health time bomb
  • 6 ways to prevent and ease RSI

It started as a minor twinge…

A needling discomfort in my right hand whenever I used the computer mouse.

Then it began to hurt…

Really hurt.

It was as if there was a taut, red hot metal wire running from my middle finger, down the back of my hand and up my wrist.

Every time I typed or used the mouse, that wire would twang like a guitar string, sending a shock of pain through my body.

This would be accompanied by a fuzzy pins-and-needles feeling…. then – when the condition was at its worst – a surge of nausea.

Do you recognise this kind of pain?

It could be something you get whenever you use your phone, iPad, laptop or desktop… or it could be a gardening task, moving the gear stick when you drive, or any motion you carry out regularly for your work or favourite hobby.

If you do recognise this pain, then you probably have Repetitive Strain injury, also known as RSI.

Many people who don’t have it (doctors included!) tend to put it down as a minor niggle.

It’s anything but minor.

It can ruin lives, threaten careers and drive people to distraction.

Take it from my own experience.

My RSI got so bad that I was unable to continue writing. I spent days away from my computer, signed off work, hoping the pain would go away with a little rest.

When everything felt okay again I’d go back to my computer…

And within minutes the pain was back, as bad as before.

After weeks of this I began to get anxious and depressed. I got panicky that I couldn’t carry out the work I needed to earn money as a freelance writer, which is what I was at the time.

That was when I decided that I had to sort it out – and so began a journey of treatments and experiments that I am still carrying out now, ten years later!

I’ll explain more about those in a moment.

The reason I was inspired to write about it today was that my publisher sent me an article he tore out of the Times Magazine.

Why computers, smartphones and iPads are ticking health time bomb

The article told the story of Andy Riley, a professional cartoonist in his 40s who spent £20,000 trying to get rid of his RSI.

As the Times puts it: “One acupuncturist, two osteopaths, three podiatrists, a nerve surgeon, shoulder consultant, physiotherapist elbow specialist, psychologist and Botox doctor”.

That sounds like a LOT of options to try…

But if you have RSI, or know someone with it, this won’t surprise you. The pain is so bad and debilitating, sufferers with RSI will do anything to solve the problem – and keep hunting for remedies and therapies until they do.

The alternative is a future characterised by depression, career decline, money problems and relationship strain.

And as Andy points out, this could happen to anyone, at any time of life.

In a society in which many of us are desk-bound, stuck in cars and trains for hours… addicted to our computers, smart phones, tablets and laptops…. RSI is a health time bomb ticking away beneath many of us.

As Andy Riley says in the Times article…

“We punish a particular set of muscles almost every minute of the day. You don’t have to be a cartoonist; if you use a computer at work, a smartphone on the train and an iPad in the evening, you’re giving your body no let up. Now you feel fine, but in ten years you might not”.

So what about you?

I assume you’re reading this on a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone? In which case I’m guessing you spend a fair amount of time on these devices.

Or perhaps you already have RSI, or get little twinges when you carry out certain tasks.

In which case let me tell you how I dealt with it (and still deal with it).

Six ways to prevent or control RSI pain

1. See a physical therapist. By therapist I mean anyone who understands posture and how the body works. It could be an acupuncturist, physiotherapist, or chiropractor. They can usually diagnose which parts of your body are causing the problem. Usually the root of the RSI problem is in the back, neck, spine, shoulder and not in your actual wrist or hands.

2. Sort out your posture. Quite often it’s our posture that’s the problem. We all have bad habits that our bodies take on – it could be that we hunch our shoulders, slouch at the desk or stand with too much weight on one leg. These have knock-on effects through the body. For me, Pilates has been the key. It trains the muscles and skeleton to work more harmoniously so that I sit straighter and stand without putting undue pressure on parts of my body. You could also try yoga or tai-chi.

3. Low impact exercise. When I got RSI I began to take very long, fast-paced walks every day. Owning a dog really helped as it forced me outside for at least an hour every day. Whenever the RSI became acute swimming was one of the best remedies for me. It’s low impact and gets all your muscles and joints working together fluidly.

4. RSI software – if you spend lots of time at a computer, consider getting RSI software. You install IT on your computer and it forces you to take breaks – literally the screens shuts down (with warning) at allotted intervals WHICH you decide in advance. It means you have to get up, stretch, make a cup of tea or go for a short walk until you’re allowed back. Here’s an example: RSI Guard but there are plenty of others if you Google “RSI software”.

5. Voice recognition software. When I was forced to stop typing because of RSI, I used voice recognition software. If you have Windows 7 or above on your computer, you already have voice recognition. Just type “voice recognition” into the search box to the bottom left of your screen. Back in 2007 I used software known as Dragon Nuance – which is still available here.

6. Use a mobile microcurrent therapy device. While it’s usually our wrists and hands that feel the pain, if the root of the problem is in your back neck or shoulder, then consider wearing something like a Pain Ease Wrap while you work or go about your business. It not only blocks pain but helps the damaged tissues heal.

If you do all the above you won’t need to spend £20,000 on therapies, like our cartoonist friend in The Times.

However, there are many more therapies which work for other people, so if you have used a strategy to reduce your RSI pain, then please write in and let us know.

Until next time,

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