Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

7 minute read.

For quite a while I was fight­ing Repet­i­tive strain in­ju­ry (RSI) caused by my crazy amount of typ­ing ev­ery day. When I did the marathon for my bach­e­lor’s the­sis, 15 hours a day, 15 days in a row (read more about it in this blog post), my right in­dex fin­ger had grown twice its size.

For some rea­son I took a pic­ture of that… en­joy:

Comparison of left and swollen right finger

Er­go, my right in­dex fin­ger’s joint (“metacar­popha­langeal”) clear­ly doesn’t look right, and that even in com­par­i­son to my al­so swollen left in­dex fin­ger. On top of that I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pain way up in­to my shoul­der, ac­com­pa­nied by heavy neck ten­sion.

This blog post is about my ex­pe­ri­ence with fix­ing this con­di­tion.

Pre­vi­ous At­tempts

Luck­i­ly, I knew about RSI be­fore I got it, thanks to a talk that I once had watched on youtube 7. Which made me try many many things and hab­bits ear­ly, hab­bits that still stick un­til to­day: I use a ver­ti­cal mouse 8, work at a stand­ing desk ev­ery now and then (and oth­er er­gonom­ic fix­es), stretch my arms and wrists be­fore Park­our train­ing at least once a week and used to avoid arm-heavy ex­cer­cis­es like the planche. I con­sult­ed a doc­tor and a phys­io­ther­a­pist, per­son­al train­er and count­less web­sites. I al­so tried self-mas­sage and us­ing a black­roll/foam roller 9, which is meant to help re­lease or loosen up your fas­cia. I even start­ed cod­ing a VR ed­i­tor to use full-arm ges­tures and voice recog­ni­tion to not on­ly fix the cause of the prob­lem (the typ­ing), but al­so be more ef­fi­cient than I would with key­board and mouse. I did not get very far with that, though.

My mind­set back at the time drift­ed in­to “I’m stuck with this and there is noth­ing I can do.”, un­til a dear friend of mine got me out of that.

What Worked For Me

Karo­line Ren­ner 10, who treats these kinds of is­sues for mu­si­cians 12, lis­tened to me com­plain­ing about RSI a cou­ple of times and made it very clear that this is not an un­treat­i­ble con­di­tion. In­stead, there is one very im­por­tant fact that she tought me: ten­dons are stress­able for around 30-40 min­utes, no longer and this is not train­able. “What!” I prob­a­bly shout­ed in dis­may, when I heared this for the first time.

But here’s the pos­i­tive: the ten­dons on­ly need 5 min­utes to be stress­able for an­oth­er 30-40 min­utes. To help with this, I high­ly rec­om­mend stretch­ly 11—an app for Win­dows, Lin­ux and Mac, that re­minds you to take breaks.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, the RSI was heav­i­ly boost­ed by my neck ten­sions. Karo­line tought me how to sit at the desk in an er­gonom­i­cal and sus­tain­able way. While I al­ready knew the ba­sics, it was en­light­en­ing to have some­one cor­rect my pos­ture, which still had a long way to go. Es­pe­cial­ly note­wor­thy was that the height my screens were at was sur­pris­ing­ly in­suf­fi­cient and made me look down­ward, putting a lot of stress on my back neck mus­cles.

Apart from that, Con­tem­po­rary danc­ing im­proved my flex­i­bil­i­ty and made me stretch reg­u­lar­ly, al­so help­ing to re­lease a lot of neck ten­sion.

Fi­nal Notes

“Health first” is one of my most im­por­tant prin­ci­ples when it comes to work. I love work and to “Where is your work-life bal­ance?” I re­spond “Work is life. Per­fect bal­ance.” But work is not fun if ev­ery key­stroke makes you think about how long you’ll be able to con­tin­ue un­til the pain reach­es a lev­el at which you can no longer work.

If you have RSI, un­der­stand that you can very like­ly treat it with­out op­er­a­tion, but not with­out tak­ing breaks. “In­san­i­ty is re­peat­ing the same mis­takes and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult”, you can­not ex­pect to con­tin­ue the work hab­bits that start­ed the RSI and still get rid of the RSI. Treat the cause, not the symp­toms.

Us­ing Python to Code by Voice
Here’s an ama­zon af­fil­i­ate link: CSL - TM137U Op­ti­cal Mouse / Ver­ti­cal Ver­sion
An­oth­er ama­zon af­fil­i­ate link: BLACK­ROLL foam roller
Find her Ger­man web­site here.
Get it here for free.
This treat­ment is called “Dis­poki­ne­sis”