My RSI Story

I’m write this as a record [approximate, based on old memories], of my RSI and all its consequences. If anybody already has the problem, then hopefully this should help. I think after all my research, I have many solutions! I know many people for whom this has occurred and dissapeared never to appear again. So its not necessary that any of this applies to you. But the solutions are good fun anyway, none of them involve any injections or bitter pills 😉

To begin at the the beginning…

Ever since engineering, I was a programmer, and apart from than that, also a chatter and emailer. And… an obsessed computer gamer… [totally addicted to Doom (3D virtual reality computer game) among others]. Around the year 2000, I hardly noticed this pain which came in my hands once in a way.

It was around January, 2001 when the pain increased. I started consulting doctors, who referred me to orthopedics (and charged me for consultation anyway). And I had thought orthopedics only dealt with bones. I saw around half a dozen orthopedics, both in Bangalore and in Germany. Bone scan, x-ray, etc didn’t show anything. They all said almost the same thing… just use ice packs… hot packs… ointments… bandages… wrist splints… it would go away in a few days. I went through all kinds of treatment for six months and none of the treatment really helped. I tried typing with only two fingers and wearing my wristbands and using the wrist pad, didn’t help much. Many did give me temporary relief, but after starting to type, it came back.

At first, it used to pain only when I used a PC during the week. It would subside over the weekend. At one time, I applied for 4 days leave from a Thursday to Sunday. I was shit scared on Saturday because even after two days of complete rest, I still had a lot of pain! The main thing is the more I worried about this, the worse it got!

It didn’t help much when I came to know that were some group of doctors in Australia, who were trying to prove that tendonitis doesn’t exist at all! They were being funded by companies who were getting sued by their employees!

One thing I did not like about a couple of doctors I consulted was, the moment I said “hand pain” they would go “oh you’re a computer programmer right? right! Oh ok I know all about you and your problem. I have seen so many people like you!” And I could make out he wasn’t really listening to when I started describing my situation. He would gleefully start writing out a prescription even while I was talking, and would typically prescribe some squeezeable toy or some ointment. Even if I said “Ive tried that, it dosent work” it wasn’t much use.

Anyway, one of the better doctors I consulted said that it is caused mainly because of the “circus” that the wrists do while typing multiple keys simultaneously! Unfortunately this can’t be avoided because that’s the way software is designed… how would I ever code if I can’t use Ctrl-C Ctrl-V 😉 Well, came across a solution for that, there’s this Sticky Key option in Win2k (Accessibility Options).

It was amazing how such a simple action as clicking a mouse button could send a mild electric shock down my hand. I started using my mouse with my left hand, not without some initial confusion. Strangely, switching the mouse settings to make it a left-handed mouse made things simpler. Eventually my left hand was affected too, and I had to then keep alternating between my two hands. Came across this neat tool to avoid mouse clicking… It was pretty intuitive and I used it for over 6 months… Only thing was if somebody else used my PC, all the windows would go completely berserk with random clicks all over the place… but luckily it had a task bar item thru which it can be turned on and off. A very useful feature was the 30 minutes stretch timer which pops up a message box every 30 minutes reminding you to take a break.

There were a lot of information available on correct ergonomic postures. Though at times, different sources seemed to contradict each other, the basic principles were the same. But somehow though I corrected my posture, after half an hour I would find myself back in my old slouching position. I even tried really weird shaped ergonomic keyboards and mice.

Immersing my hands in hot water provided some temporary relief.

All those helped, but didn’t really eliminate the problem.

There was a typing tutor software which said RSI is caused due to the QWERTY keyboard layout. This is because the QWERTY layout was designed for the old models of typewriters to make it as hard as possible for the typist (So that they could keep up!). It suggested that I learn the DWORAK layout. But somehow that didn’t appeal to me… I was a touch typist and the idea of unlearning QWERTY to learn DWORAK didn’t sound very attractive.

At one point, my hand became very weak. I had difficulty lifting even small weights which I didn’t have earlier. That’s when I really panicked. I had to seriously start considering giving up the use of a computer forever.

One fine day… I had an unbelievable breakthrough!! One rare Sunday morning when I successfully woke up early in the morning, I went to 18th cross grounds and played Frisbee. The way we play Frisbee is we stand about 100 – 150m apart, and almost run 20m away to catch the Frisbee (not direct hand to hand throws)… really ‘high-end’ playing! At the end of the session, I was stunned to discover that the pain was virtually gone!!! It was there slightly in my left hand… but didn’t come to my right hand until Thursday!

When it returned on Thursday, I knew that it was not invincible and permanent. I knew that I could beat it. The relief had brought tremendous confidence within me. I started experimenting with different ways of tackling the problem, this time from a fresh perspective, from a scientific point of view. The pain which had been my enemy was now the subject of a very interesting investigation!

I found that practicing the karate punches which I had learned a long time ago from my brief martial arts stint helped. Badminton and table tennis were very good. I tried my best to burn fat and lose weight… one theory was that due to fat in blood vessels, blood circulation is not enough for hands.

There’s no permanent cure for RSI, it keeps recurring again at again at unpredictable intervals.

Sree Kumar (from icope) told me an inspiring story – that of Sachin Tendulkar’s. When Sachin was diagnosed with a back-injury many years ago, the doctors told him that he cannot play cricket any more. He didn’t give up, and did some back exercises and got back to form. His back injury is permanent .. but he still continues those exercises… and he still plays cricket.

At one time when my pain recurred, I decided to give a friend’s recommendation a try. I went to a “natural healer” (I forgot the exact term). Her system was based on massages with some weird smelling oil, pressing the arms with a cloth dipped in boiling hot water (ouch!) and reiki and meditation and what not. I was cynical at first, because till the day I consulted her, I had thought that allopathic system of medicine was the only one which worked, all others were based merely on psychological effects. Anyway most such impressions changed that day. She was the first doctor (though not officially) I had consulted till then who could explain the root cause of the problem. She told me that its not just because of wrong computer usage, it also gets aggravated by the way I ride my 2 wheeler. In both situations, I unconsciously tense my elbows. She suggested that I make it a point to relax the arms while riding.

However it was easier said than done, and it took quite a while to undo the old habit pattern of the mind of tightening the arm muscles, especially while driving in heavy traffic involving frequent use of the accelerator and brake.

Years rolled by and I changed my workplace, and attended some Yoga classes. I was lucky that my instructor did not pre-condition my mind with a lot of theory about chakras and what not. Knowing a lot of theory before practicing it can be counter-productive, because the mind begins to “expect” certain things to happen instead of looking at what is actually going on. I could simply learn Yoga as it was, and it was a lot of fun.

Eventually, I was able to observe the tension of the muscles in my wrists, elbows and shoulders, as well as the slouching of my back while riding my scooter. I could work towards gradually correcting the situation to make the new posture the “default” behavior.

At the risk of sounding like some stereotype advertisement, my suggestion to others about RSI would be… don’t fear it, face it and beat it.

As I type this now, in July 2003, I still have the occasional sharp shooting pain. I smile at it and acknowledge it. I know I am more powerful than it. And I keep on typing.

Some of the information given in the below link could be quite intimidating. But it should not be, once the problem is accurately understood:
The RSI Page

Some useful excerpts wrt posture from some articles:

The most essential thing is to sit with your back straight. The spine should be erect with the spinal vertebrae held like a stack of coins, one on top of the other. Your head should be held in line with the rest of the spine. All of this is done in a relaxed manner. No Stiffness. You are not a wooden soldier, and there is no drill sergeant. There should be no muscular tension involved in keeping the back straight. Sit light and easy. The spine should be like a firm young tree growing out of soft ground. The rest of the body just hangs from it in a loose, relaxed manner. This is going to require a bit of experimentation on your part. We generally sit in tight, guarded postures when we are walking or talking and in sprawling postures when we are relaxing. Neither of those will do. But they are cultural habits and they can be re-learned.


Breathing correctly helps regulate your entire psychophysical structure. Calm breath calms the mind, and heavy, rapid breathing accelerates the tempo of your thoughts and leads to tension of the body. The function of the breath is to supply oxygen to the body and to cleanse and purify the dark impure blood into vitalizing red blood. The breath indirectly supplies energy to the body by the explosion of oxygen into atoms of life force. Through habit, our bodies have become accustomed to food and air, but if we de-condition ourselves and train ourselves to life more by the life force, the less will we need to depend on secondary sources of sustenance, such as, food, oxygen, water, and sunshine.

To breathe properly, it is important that you also maintain a proper posture. Look carefully around you and you will observe the apathy with regard to this vital statistic of life. Right now, stop and check on how you are sitting or standing. Slouched, are you?!? If you exist all-folded-up, you’ll restrict your breathing, squash your internal organ functioning, and generally limit the effectiveness of your clarity, awareness levels, and overall perspectives in life. When you breathe, remember to keep your spine straight and upright. The head should be held relaxed but looking straight ahead with the chin only slightly upraised. If the whole vertebral column is taut and rigid, moving upward from the coccyx (the tailbone at the base of the spine), seek to loosen and relax each of the many vertebrae turn by turn, all the way to the crown of your head. Simultaneously, lengthen up the front of your body from the pubic bone to the upper portion of the breastbone. Never sit with a crooked spine and squeezed lungs. As you breathe, deep and slow, remember that your diaphragm should (the area just below your ribs; the muscular partition between your chest and your stomach) expand with every inflow, and should contract with every outflow of breath. Throughout the day, cultivate the habit of doing spot checks on your breathing process. Speak with your diaphragm, and encourage it to expand a little bit more than it normally does. When you breathe in, the region of the abdomen must expand, and when we breathe out, it must contract; so many of us do just the reverse. Make a conscious and then unconscious habit of this and see the effects it quickly weaves into your life.

Symptoms, then, are in reality nothing but a cry from suffering organs.
~ Jean-Martin Charcot

11 Responses to “My RSI Story”

  1. Reader Says:

    good story

  2. Sanjay Mysoremutt » Blog Archive » Dhamma in TT, driving Says:

    […] constricted blood vessels, etc – different doctors give different reasons. I had also recorded my RSI story where I’d explored a lot of short term solutions. In the first place, […]

  3. Sanjay Mysoremutt » Blog Archive » dealing with death Says:

    […] (which I’m yet to describe in this blog) as one of my experiments in dealing with my RSI, I was almost willing to abandon everything and just go out to the Himalayas or any place to […]

  4. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    sanjay, yentha viparyasa nodi: when we are young, we were told that to get a good job and lead a good life, we must study well. we carry loads of books and struggle. then, if we do study well and get a good job, we get RSI, acidity, back pain etc. we EARN to lead a good life, but at what cost? our health is getting spoilt. compare our health to that of our elders! they were SUPERMEN,alwa?

    maybe our kids may say the same thing….so in a way, we are pretty healthy.
    (they may say: during our parents’ time, there was no METRO….so they used to ride vehicles and stay FIT. but for us, we travel in METRO and no exercise!)

  5. msanjay Says:

    one possibility is that they may say during our parent’s time, there was no need to use computers to do homework and they didn’t wear glasses at the age of 12. This unfortunately is happening in America already.

    But I am still optimistic that somehow kids will be smarter than us!

    They were not supermen, they were just leading relatively more natural lives.

  6. a common man ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » the ergonomic scientist Says:

    […] The more common everyday problem with a much higher risk, is usually tendonitis – and that's bad enough by itself Apart from common problems for the wrists, we also have the […]

  7. mitch Says:

    Thank for a compelling and inspiring story.

    What happened with your RSI?

    I am looking into natural ways of helping RSI and tendonitis.

    I am thinking about a trying a natural treatment ( ) but your mentioning natural therapy like reiki sounds intriguing and interesting. 😛

    I really loved your mention of the importance of posture and breathing.

    Thank you common man for sending more wisdom to the West from the E 😛 ast.

  8. Sanjay M Says:

    Hi Mitch – thanks for your nice comments! Visited the link on homeopathic drug lexoprin – guess you need to experiment and make your own choice 🙂

    My own RSI is negligible now. Its still there somewhere – it does reccur very rarely, during excessive overuse when I have those deadlines and Im overworking completely ignoring my posture and breaks and any kinds of excercises (I mean general physical excercise of any form, not any particular RSI related excercises).

    After reading this article which talks of temporary cures, there was only one reader of this article till date who asked me the question – what really finally got rid of it? 🙂

    It primarily comes down to learning to listen: and becoming one’s own ergonomic scientist

  9. a common man ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » take a work break! Says:

    […] See also: My own RSI Story […]

  10. Maruti Says:

    An acupuncture way to heal from RSI

    I am a person who had debilitating form of RSI for eight years. I had hard time even to type for five minutes even after taking one year rest from my software job. However, I am recovering now by using sujok acupuncture. When most of the treatment therapies failed to have any considerable effect on me I decided to try sujok acupuncture from an MBBS doctor, Ashok Reddy in Bangalore. I was pleased with the response I got and because Dr. Reddy was relocating to USA, I decided to learn this therapy myself and treat myself and help people in distress. On Dr. Reddy’s advice I decided to get trained in sujok acupuncture from Dr. Laxminarayan Prabhu, MBBS MD MRCP who has an acupuncture clinic in Vijay Nagar, Bangalore. Dr. Prabhu gave enough time to answer my questions and made me a sujok practicener over one months time. I visited Dr. Prabhu mostly during the week ends to study this simple but powerful acupuncture technique. I am writing this mail to let the people know if you have not found any benefit from the type of therapies you are having, then use Sujok acupuncture. This could change your life altogether. Sujok is a korean acupuncture which concentrates only on the fingers and palm of hand to treat practically any type of disease. In
    Russia clinical trials have been done using this therapy for many serious diseases. Browse this link to know the efficacy of this therapy.

    After learning this therapy I have started treating people free of cost and helped many to get rid of their year old pains.
    I have finally found satisfaction in my life by using this therapy than doing software development job. I am currently working as an Engg. Manager at Vividlogic and can be reached at
    Those who have hard time to type can reach me on my mobile 9880716779.
    My sole goal is to popularise this therapy and help people suffering from RSI type ailments to start working again.

  11. Sanjay Says:

    One interesting thing I’ve missed mentioning here…

    Around the time I was lost looking for solutions, I was walking one morning in an open ground near Sankey Tank. I saw some people playing frisbee – not just the typical way but nothing like I’d ever seen before – one end of the field across the entire expanse over the heads of others jogging around or playing cricket etc all the way to the other end. It was just amazing simply to watch them, and after a while I wondered if they’d let me try. What do I have to lose in asking them, so I asked, and they cordially invited me… and taught me the basics of throwing accurately, covering a long range. It was difficult and demanding at first, but after a while I got the hang of it – found it was really fun.

    And at the end of the session, though perspiring thoroughly… I was left exhilirated… and observed one strange thing… my long long pending wristache always in the background, had disappeared. It seemed to be a miracle… and I became quite regular from that day onwards. Though it recurred later in the day, the very fact that I’d had a glimpse of a solution had given me a tremendous sense of relief.

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