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 These days, I mostly post my tech musings on Linkedin.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmcgrath/

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coping wirh RSI - a field report

    Debugging, as any software engineer knows, is a tough problem owing to the difficulty of establishing repeatable causal connections between events. Debugging RSI is about the most complex problem I have ever tried to debug I think. -- Coping wirh RSI - a field report


Vitaly said...


BTW, did you try different mouses?
which one are you using now?


Sean McGrath said...


Yes,I tried a variety of mice, settling on a Evoluent model.


CjK said...

Good to read you're getting better.

Although so many people nowadays suffer under muscular pain, most doctors are still way behind in understanding whats really going on.

I was lucky to know two doctors who specialized in this area and were indeed able to measure the cause of most muscular pain. In most cases, the root cause is this: (very roughly, not enough space here):

1. We , the "homo sedens" sit most of the day, exercising some muscles (e.g. back-muscles) and neglecting others (stomach-, throat-muscles, ...).

2. A muscular imbalance is gradually build up, e.g. stomach-muscles become weaker+shorter, back-muscles become stronger(!).
=> our posture declines, stress worsens this development, since it ultimately supports shorting of muscles and bad posture (like you described in your post very well).

3. Your body starts signaling pain to warn you of the muscular inbalance, which later leads to joint injury, strained cartilages, ..., and effects like lumbago, ...

So why were your measures partly successful and partly not?

Some of your "debugging" helped your muscles to return to their original balance somewhat: Yoga, stretching et.al. signals your shortened muscles to grow longer again. Stress reduction also helps to remain posture, relax muscles, etc. so they don't grow short that fast. Of course, regaining and retaining muscular balance takes a long time, think about how long your body was able to reduce muscle-size/tissue. Since Yoga et. al. (or the part you exercise of it) do not focus on the body parts that are most in need (but more on the overall condition), improvement comes at a slow rate.

What I had to do is analyse exactly which muscles where affected at most and then literally invent exercises to focus my effort on those muscles. After months of exercising and experimenting I got rid of all by body pain eventually.

What remained was a head-age about once a week. I was able to exstinct this one (again, after lot's of trial+error) by giving myself an additional hour of sleep each night.

That did it.

But it's hard, most doctors can't really help (no easy way, no medicine to subscribe, can't spot shortened muscles under X-ray, ...).

The key conecpt is to understand that the human body was build to move, run, climb trees, swing, walk, hunt - i.e. movements that exercised our muscles in very different ways. And look how limited our movements are today. Our overall body can't adapt that fast (globally). On the other hand, our body can adapt fast locally. It adapts economically by shortening (obviously, but wrongely) unneeded muscle-tissue and shorting what's not needed any more. So we have to find a way to tell our body something like: "Hey, I need this muscle, don't degrade it!" by finding the right exercise. Stretching helps, but works like a shotgun, not like a sniper rifle.

There is still a lot to be said here, but I hope this helps a bit in further improving your situation.


The Lal said...

I've a good friend here (he is English) who is a Chinese Dr/Acupuncturist and his theory is that its a symyptom of modern life especially IT/computers.

Basically not enough movement, too much sitting, bad posture etc..
He knows of patients that have had surgery 2 "fix" RSI and guess what it comes back again!

Solve the problem and not the symptom. Saying that I've had some 'pain' in hands/fingers as well .... :( is it coming my way as well? Need 2 get out more!


Anonymous said...

I recommend getting mice with buttons that you can control with your feet. Clicking a mouse was always pretty painful for me and I know it has helped friends.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine pointed me to this post, but it looks as if it's been moved! Is there a new place to find it on the web?

Sean McGrath said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!I've been away from computers for a couple of weeks with, er, RSI, but I've now managed to read the article and it's really helpful.