10 Years With RSI [en]

[fr] Plus de 10 ans que mes mains ont commencé à faire mal. Bilan: c'est sous contrôle, même s'il y a certaines choses que je ne peux plus faire. J'ai aussi procédé à des aménagements pour certaines activités.

In September 2002 my hands started hurting really badly at the computer. I had to take three breaks while writing this article. I took some time off, and when I got back to work, within half a day, things were back where they were. I panicked for a few days. A lot of my life revolved around computers. How would I finish my studies? I discovered it was possible to use a computer with speech recognition, and that reassured me a bit. I saw the doctor, spent 5 weeks off work and computers (well, at work but not allowed to type, it was dreadful, actually), the neurologist confirmed my nerves were all right, I got Dragon NaturallySpeaking (version 5 at the time) and started speaking to my computer.

Life resumed, at home and work. I practically stopped using my hands with my computer and dictated for pretty much a whole year, including my university dissertation and my last written exam (they stuck me in my teacher’s office for that).

When I left my job at Orange, I got an iBook, which meant I said goodbye to speech recognition. By then the rest had done its job, and I had also made some changes which certainly helped improve things:

  • I got rid of my old clunky keyboard and moved the computer away from the drafty window
  • I got a laptop, actually, which meant I started varying the positions in which I typed
  • I started paying attention to my hands: was I in pain? was I uncomfortable?
  • I used a break timer to force myself to learn to stop and take breaks
  • I learned to say “no” a bit more, and give a higher priority to myself over others (ie, taking care of my hands became top priority, whereas others’ needs used to be what came first)
  • In general, I started listening to myself more: how was I feeling? was I stressed? was I tired? did I want to do what I was doing? etc.
  • I made sure I continued to get (gentle) exercise; I went easy on my hands at judo for a couple of years.

Where am I at now, 10 years later? Well, I still say I have RSI, because it’s just around the corner, but most of the time it doesn’t bother me. It’s “under control”. Many years ago my osteopath actually managed to do something to make my hands hurt less. Something to do with my arteries, it seems. No guarantee it will be the same for everyone with RSI, but it does it for me. So when my hands start feeling painful again, I head off to my osteo. With the years, I’ve learnt to recognize my hands hurting as a warning sign rather than a problem in itself. They don’t normally hurt. If they hurt and I go to my osteo, she’ll usually find a whole bunch of things that are, let’s say, “out of balance”.

Here’s what my life with RSI is, 10 years later:

  • I type on my Macbook in all sorts of non-ergonomic positions: I vary
  • At my desk though, I make sure that I am sitting high enough that my elbow makes a 90°+ angle (for me the most comfortable place to type is on my knees => laptop)
  • I never use a mouse, and know tons of keyboard shortcuts
  • I have Dragon Dictate but don’t use it enough — I haven’t invested the time to be comfortable with it
  • I have discovered speech recognition on my iPhone and use it whenever I can
  • I cannot carry my groceries very far without taking a break, even though I have plenty of upper-body strength (I have a rollie-bag)
  • I avoid repetitive hand movements: chopping lots of hard stuff, screwing with a manual screwdriver, polishing by hand… if I have to I take breaks, but if possible I’ll let somebody else do that kind of job
  • I’m still doing judo, and can fight “normally”, though it hurts “more than it should” when people rip their sleeves out of my hands or when I’ve been strangling somebody really hard 😉
  • If I feel RSI coming back, I run to the osteo
  • In general, I take much better care of myself than I used to, and I am much “softer” on myself (I used to be the “tough it out” type, RSI cured me from that)
  • I cannot write by hand more than a few lines anymore; this is a combination of lack of practice (I always type) and some loss of fine motor control probably due to RSI. If I try to write, I become illegible after a few lines, and it hurts. So I don’t.

Over the years, I have seen so many people develop RSI in some form or other. Don’t overwork yourself. Take care of your hands before they start hurting.

3rd #back2blog challenge
(7/10), with: Brigitte Djajasasmita (@bibiweb), Baudouin Van Humbeeck (@somebaudy), Mlle Cassis (@mlle_cassis), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Yann Kerveno (@justaboutvelo), Annemarie Fuschetto (@libellula_free), Ewan Spence (@ewan), Kantu (@kantutita), Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Michelle Carrupt (@cmic), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Adam Tinworth (@adders), Mathieu Laferrière (@mlaferriere), Graham Holliday (@noodlepie), Denis Dogvopoliy (@dennydov), Christine Cavalier (@purplecar), Emmanuel Clément (@emmanuelc), Xavier Bertschy (@xavier83). Follow #back2blog.