What is RSI?
RSI or Repetitive Stress Injury is a general condition that is used to describe pain and discomfort felt in the muscles, nerves, and tendons caused by repetitive movements and general overuse.
What this site is about?
The basic idea of this site is to give you some background on the approaches I took to solving my own RSI pain. Maybe it can be helpful for you in developing your own approach and get you started on your own road to recovery.
My RSI Self Treatment Plan
1. Assess and Analyze
I put this as the first step because you must continually assess and analyze the results of your own self treatment plan.
To do this:
- Keep a daily log of how your pain feels each day. Log stretches and activities you do that help and those that hurt.
more coming soon…
One of the big keys to getting over RSI issues is to make sure you get plenty of rest and give your body a chance to heal.
If you have RSI, then you need to realize that you basically have an injury. In order to recover from that injury you need to get much more sleep than normal. I would try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night and maybe more like 9-10 hours if possible.
Sleep on your back
I feel like this is a very big key if your RSI issues are caused by neck and shoulder tightness. You need to train yourself to sleep on your back in order to give your shoulders and neck time to open up and release!
I have found that the best way to train yourself to sleep on your back is to put a bolster up under your legs:
I use the above pictured bolster from Amazon and it works great!
Stay Away from stressor activity as much as possible
The way you are performing your stressor activity is what is causing your RSI. And that is why you need to do that activity as little as possible while you are healing!
If keyboarding at work is causing your issues then you really need to just work your 8 hours and go home. Don’t put in extra hours while healing!
Once you get home do not touch the keyboard unless absolutely necessary!
I thought originally that that numbness and tingling I was feeling in my hands was caused by something going on in my hands or wrists. What I found out over the past 5 years though is that RARELY are the hands and wrists/forearms the DIRECT source of this pain.
Usually the RSI pain you are feeling is caused by you doing repetitive movements in a position of poor posture. Those repetitive movements, in a poor position, are over-taxing your muscles and causing them to tighten up and form trigger points of contracted tightness that can feel like knots.
The tight muscles put pressure on your nerves and as they get irritated they refer pain down to your hands and wrists. Many times you can have multiple areas where the nerves are being compressed and this is often called Double Crush Syndrome.
A great video describing referred pain and its role in RSI issues
There can be multiple areas causing the problem
The three main compression areas for me are:
- Neck - Scalenes and Trap tightness
- Brachial Plexus - Pec Major/Pec Minor (aka chest) tightness
- Elbow/Forearm tightness
Releasing the tight muscles and trigger points will help relieve the compression on these nerves and help you get out of pain.
A good video on Trigger Points
Getting Started with Releasing Trigger Points and Tight Muscles
I think the first step to learning how to release trigger points and tight muscles is to get yourself a lacrosse ball!
Once you have the lacrosse ball you can then watch some of the below videos to see how you can release various parts of the body with the lacrosse ball:
general usage tips
lacrosse ball for forearm release
lacrosse ball for tight pecs
lacrosse ball for tight Scalenes
Other tools for release
I have found that a lacrosse ball is not always the best tool to release some tight muscles. So, here are some other tools I have tried and liked:
This is actually a fantastic tool for getting in those hard to reach spots in your body like your upper back, etc. It also really allows you to get some leverage and put some real pressure on any tight spots you might have.
On the flip side though one thing I don’t like about it is that its a bit hard to maneuver because of its large size. It is also not very portable because its not like you can easily throw it into a bag.
That being said I do believe that this is one of the essential tools to have.
This is actually my favorite hand-held massage tool! I love using the long knob to get into my tight pectoral muscles and I press it into my forearms to release a lot of tightness I have built up in there.
I typically take it in my bag everywhere with me.
This tool is basically a hard plastic thumb. I find it great for the forearms and other areas but I do find it a little less useful than the TheraPress Deep Tissue Massage Tool. Still, some people may find it works better for them. It’s also really great for using on other people. Save your thumbs!
I bought this on a whim one day from Amazon and I would say it works fairly well. The strong point for it in my eyes is that the roller ball is a more gentler end point to press into some of your more sensative muscles like those in your chest or neck.
For me, this tool has basically one use. But wow, is it great at that one use! I lay it on the floor and use it to press into tight and sore trap muscles (upper back/shoulder muscles) and it always seems to help bring some relief.
Its also decent for getting into tight glutes if you have some piriformis muscle tightness.
This one is expensive but I will say it works very well. I love it because I don’t have to do as much work and I’m inherently lazy! I love that its cordless and yet still has a good amount of power for a massager. I just haven’t been using it as much any more since my RSI pain has been going away.
The Armaid actually does little for me and I’m not a big fan of it. I’m including it though because perhaps it will help someone with forearm only pain. I feel like the Armaid could have been great but its just really hard to apply the pressure you need by squeezing it with your other hand. In my opinion its better to just use your elbows or a lacrosse ball on your forearms.
I found that after I released the tight muscles and trigger points I could then start stretching the muscles to add some length to them and prevent them from continually shortening and tightening up during the day.
I hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds but longer can be better according to the research I have done.
My daily stretch routine for RSI includes the following stretches:
I perform each stretch at least once a day and try to hold each for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Lacrosse ball thoracic spine release
- Hip Stretch
- Hamstring Stretches on wall
- Chest Stretches
- Shoulder dislocation stretch with yoga band
- Neck Stretches
- Hand and forearm stretch routine
Here are some videos/gifs to show you how to do these stretches
Lacrosse ball thoracic spine release
This is a fantastic stretch! To do it you have to get a hold of two lacrosse balls and then you use medical tape to tape them together to form a peanut.
If you don’t want to make it yourself then I you can buy one already made from me from this site. I also sell and use a version that has slightly more space between the lacrosse balls. Email me at: [email protected] for more information!
This stretches the psoas muscles and other muscles at the front of the hip. Sitting causes them to be tight which leads to poor posture.
The key with these chest stretches is to go slowly and make sure you retract your shoulder back when stretching them.
Shoulder Dislocation Stretch with Yoga Band (Or PVC Pipe)
In the video above she calls it a Chest Opener but I have also seen this called a Shoulder Dislocation stretch. Regardless, its a great exercise for warming up the shoulders and opening the chest.
There are Two key areas of the neck I like to stretch every day.
- The Scalenes
- Upper Traps
Tight scalenes are one of the biggest problem areas in the neck that can lead to RSI pain.
Here is a great video on stretching them out.
Tight upper traps are also a very big cause of RSI pain as a tight trap can pull the first rib up: https://erikdalton.com/blog/mystery-pain-generator/
Here is a great video on stretching out the upper traps:
Hand and Forearm Stretches
The hand and forearms of people who use their hands all day for work can carry all kinds of trigger points I am finding. Once you have released those trigger points as much as you can using one of the tools above it is time to put them through some stretches.
I like this hand stretch routine the best:
Once you get your muscles released and then stretched its then time to begin to strengthen those muscles (or the opposing muscle) groups to make sure they do not cause you problems again.
Here are the exercises I focus on:
- Rhomboid exercises
- chin tucks like crazy
- Wrist/forearm exercises
Chin tucks work your deep neck flexors which are the muscles that pull your neck back and stop it from going forward. Reducing forward head posture helps RSI pain by stopping some of the key areas of nerve entrapment that run through your neck and shoulders.
I found out on Reddit about a great variation of this movement that I am actually doing now!
Here is a link to that thread on Reddit.
And here is the video:
There are a lot of different row varations. The idea behind rows is to strengthen your Rhomboids, the muscles that keep your shoulders back and resist the forward pulling of your chest muscles. This keeps your shoulders healthy and prevents the nerve entrapment issues that can be caused by the Pec Minor acting out on the Brachial Plexus:
The face pull works the following muscles that help with posture:
These are a fantastic shoulder pre-hab exercise!
There is also an unweighted version of the exercise that you can do at your desk at work:
Wrist and Forearm Strengthening
These are a key exercise to do if you have ropey and painful forearm muscles. Go slow and do pleny of rest between sets.
Stretching at work
Pick one stretch or mobility exercise that you believe gives you the most results and perform it every 30 minutes at work. For example I try to alternate between chest and neck stretches every 30 minutes during the day.
If you want a more involved plan for “throughout-the-day mobility maintenance “then check out Section 4 of Kelly Starret’s book Deskbound where it talks about Movement Breaks.
Get an App on your Mac or PC to help you remind yourself to take stretch breaks. The best app I have found for Mac OS is: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/time-out-break-reminders/id402592703?mt=12
I have also recently found a great iOS app called Tally that helps you Tally up and keep track of all the exercises you need to do per day like, Chin Tucks, etc. Tally App
This is a big issue.
You have to learn to type correctly and find a keyboard and mouse setup that works well for you.
All I can show you is what I use and like. I think there are several key things for Computer Ergonomics
- Get an Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard
This is a pretty good keyboard. I use it with Mac and Linux Machines but I just have to remap some keys for Mac OS and for that I use: Karabiner-Elements
- Get a decent mouse
This is the mouse I use:
I think its fairly good. What I like about it is that it is a normal wireless mouse and has a good solid click as well as a decent size.
I will say though that I have friends who swear by this type of trackball mouse:
I would suggest trying out a few different mice and then stick with the one that works best for you.
- Use a mouse wrist wrest
This is a big one for me and is actually more important to me than the type of mouse I use. I think the thick mouse pad helps force me to keep my wrist at a healthy position when using the mouse.
This is the best one I have found. Doesn’t move around a lot. Thick enough to keep the wrist in the right position and soft enough to not be uncomfortable. It’s a great wrist pad!
- Use a clip board manager
One of the best tools I have found for us computer warriors, to reduce your keystrokes, is to use a clipboard manager! A clipboard manager is a tool that remembers your copy/paste history. That way you can just go back to the history instead of continually going back and forth between windows.
If you’re on Mac OS the best I have found is the free and open-source tool: Clipy
I haven’t used PC in a while but when I did I used: Ditto
- Try Vimium for Chrome
Using a Mouse is actually more work for your hands then using a keyboard because it requires finer precision movements. A great way to avoid using your mouse as much is to use Vim-like shortcuts in the Chrome browser!
If you are not familiar with Vim it’s a completely keyboard based text editor.
Vimium for Chrome gives you a way to navigate the web almost entirely with keyboard shortcuts!
- If you’re a programmer consider using Vim or Vim Key Bindings
As I said before using your mouse less can lead to less strain. So consider learning Vim or at least getting a Vim extension for your favorite text editor/IDE. Every major editor has Vim key bindings.
Having enough water in your body to keep your tissues moving properly is essential! When you’re dehydrated your muscles and other tissues get sticky quickly. The common recommendation is a base intake of a couple of Liters (About 8 and a half cups) of water per day.
Its also reccomended that you add a pinch of salt to your water to help the absorption of it into your body. If carrying around salt is a bit annoying to you (like it is me) then you can use tablets like these:
If you are suffering from RSI then you really need to clean up your diet in my opinion.
Because you have an injury that is being caused by your body NOT recovering from the activity you are doing. You need to eat for recovery! Just like an athlete would do:
- Eat more protein
Drink more water
As I said before, Water is a big key to keeping your muscles from spasming and causing things like muscle knots and trigger points. Drink as much as possible.
Lower you intake of processed foods and other foods that are devoid of nutrients
Highly processed foods like french fries give very little nutrients for the amount of calories they contain. Eliminate them while you are in recovery mode.
Up your intake of vegetables and other nutrient rich foods that give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to operate at its maximum.
I hate vegetables but one thing I do to get all the servings of vegetables that I need is take a vegetable supplement.
This is the vegetable supplement I use:
You can buy it from Amazon by clicking above but I prefer to buy it for a few dollars cheaper (usually) at Costco.
There are not a lot of supplements I believe in but Vitamin D3 is definitely one of the ones that I do! Americans, because of our indoor lifestyles, are likely to be defficient in Vitamin D3.
I try to take around 4-5000 IU of vitamin D per day and adjust it based on how much sun I recieve that day. But you should definitely look up the reccomended allowance for yourself
I reccomend this brand of Vitamin D3 that I have found on Amazon. I like it because it comes in pills of 1000 IU which lets me fine tune my dosage:
Omega 3 Fish Oils
Another nutrient(s) that Americans are often defficient in is Omega 3 Fish Oils.
I use this brand from Amazon:
And I take the reccomended dosage on the bottle of 2 pills each day.
B Vitamins are the final thing I take since they help with energy and many Americans are also defficient in this vital nutrient.
I use this brand from Amazon and take the reccomended dosage:
Books for more information
It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This is a fantastic book whose basic idea is that the pain you may be feeling in your hands is probably NOT caused by the commonly diagnosed and suspected Carpal Tunnel syndrome. I feel like this book is a must read for any RSI sufferers!
Becoming a Supple Leopard 2nd Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
This is a book about getting and maintaining mobility and how to perform basic maintenance on your body.
Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World
A fantastic book about how to survive a desk job!
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook
This book teaches you about what and where Trigger points are that cause your RSI and related pain.
8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot
Focused on back pain but it also tells you a lot about how to build and maintain proper posture.
Disclaimer (I’m not a doctor)
I am NOT a doctor and you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only and to describe to you the techniques and tools that have worked for me in combatting RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury).
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