RSI symptoms don’t just affect your work life. Repetitive strain injury is a whole of life issue, and will impact your evenings, nights and weekends – if you let it. Here’s 3 ways to escape from the pain cycle.
I want to start this article by exploding a myth.
The myth is this:
“RSI is a only a workplace issue.”
I suspect that most people think like this, and who could blame them? In many cases, the RSI symptoms only appear to manifest themselves in the workplace.
By its nature, RSI shows up when some activity irritates or exacerbates a problem already present in the muscles, joints or soft tissues. – Take away the activity, and the associated pain or discomfort slowly fades away.
Many RSI sufferers probably think this way too. However, the reality is that RSI symptoms are a whole of life issue: they affect our home life, just as much as they affect work.
To understand why that’s the case, I need to tell you how RSI symptoms affected me.
In the early days of my RSI troubles, I didn’t fully realise how important ergonomics would be for me.
I went to work, I sometimes felt aches and pains in my hands and arms, but the aches went away at night. I soon discovered these were RSI symptoms. My assumption was that all I needed to do was change how I worked during the day, and everything would be alright. How wrong I was.
As the months went by, I began to find that the aches and pains spread further across my body. What began isolated to my hands or shoulders, worked its way from one to the other, and spread up into my neck. I started to get numbness or “pins and needles” sensations in my little fingers and along the sides of my hands.
These are all RSI symptoms. And as these issues escalated, so they also grew worse in the evenings.
At first I could go home, enjoy my evening, and come back to work refreshed. I now found that one night’s rest simply wasn’t enough. I spent hours sitting still or lying on the ground, with my back straight – just trying to relax my body enough for my muscles to unknot.
Finally, I ended up in this situation:
Weekends were just long enough to achieve some semblance of normality, before beginning the cycle all over again, the following Monday.
One of my biggest mistakes was to continue gaming.
Since my hands were already hurting most evenings, I should have known better. But games can be addictive, and my Xbox kept calling to me (at least, that was my excuse)!
Every now and then, my wife would remind me that it wasn’t going to help. And I would reluctantly agree, and watch something on the TV instead.
But I eventually realised that I needed to take responsibility for my actions and for my health.
The problem is that RSI is such a gradual, insidious thing. The symptoms of RSI get worse over a long period of time, so you may not realise them creeping up on you, until it is too late.
But it’s never too late to reverse the process. I did it, and so can you!
Wherever you are with your RSI symptoms – whether you are in constant pain, or whether we’re catching it early – there is a way out.
So how can you break the cycle? That’s what the rest of this post is all about.
The first thing you need to do is a full ergonomic review of your workstation.
Without this foundation, you won’t know what needs changing and anything you do change up may not be fully effective.
One of the best ways of doing this, is to join my FREE email course 5 Days To Less Pain At Your PC.
This will point you in the right direction, and get you started immediately with some simple, actionable fixes to your setup.
But as you may have realised by now, your workplace ergonomics are just a part of the complete picture.
So, once that is underway, you need to think seriously about your current situation and lifestyle.
The 3 most important elements are as follows:
First of all, you must get the right amount of physical rest, in the evenings and overnight.
From my experience (and that of many RSI sufferers I have come across), it’s impossible to over stress the importance of this step!
I think the best way to put it is like this:
If you are in pain from RSI symptoms, then rest is required beyond the point at which you perceive the pain to be “gone”.
What I mean by this is that we humans tend to live like this:
1. I have pain, therefore I rest
2. The pain is gone, therefore I can do things again
However, we must remember that our physiological reaction to pain is simply the body’s way of protecting itself.
Your body is still repairing, even when the immediate RSI symptoms of pain, discomfort and stiffness are no longer present.
Therefore, you must allow extra time for proper healing to take place.
If you don’t, then you will still be stuck in the cycle we have been talking about.
Next, it’s important to manage your body with time and breaks.
I’ve already mentioned what I needed to do with my gaming habit, so you need to take a good hard look at what you do in the evenings too.
Are you doing anything at home, which could exacerbate your RSI symptoms?
This will be based on where you get pain:
Of course, you need to think about what you’re doing while you’re in work too:
If you don’t manage your working time and take regular breaks, then you’re not helping yourself.
You may need to talk to your boss, to explain why you need to change your working patterns.
Finally, review your progress regularly and check how you’re doing:
Everything will be for naught, if you’re not keeping tabs on whether your body is genuinely improving or not.
If your pain (or other RSI symptoms) is severe, then you’ll need to do this day by day in the beginning.
Be strong with yourself and schedule your daily review in your diary.
Set an alarm or reminder on your phone too. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Remember: your health and happiness depend on it.
Once you’re sure you’re getting better, then you can space them out weekly, but it’s important not to let up.
The only one who can really change things is you.
This may sound “high pressure”, but in reality, your body will soon tell you if you’re not giving it the rest and recuperation it needs.
If you’ve read this far, then you may be feeling you need a bit of help.
Surely, there’s not much point in resting and taking breaks, if your PC setup is making your RSI symptoms worse every day?
The good news is that I’ve got some FREE training for you!
It’s called 5 Days To Less Pain At Your PC and each day I’ll take you through a very quick change you can make to your setup.
The next 5 day session is starting very soon, so sign up now, so you don’t miss out!
Get your place here.
I'm Tim Bader, founder of ErgonomicToolbox.com and the Ergonomic Toolbox training course. I am a writer, author, blogger and church leader, and I help people to overcome RSI and live comfortably with technology. When I'm not writing, helping or training people, I live at home with my wife, two teenage kids and Playstation.
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