Below is my story about how I was cured from repetitive strain injury (RSI) after 10 months of chronic and debilitating pain. If you work on the computer a lot like I do, you will want to read this!
My Journey with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
It all began in June 2009 while I was attending University. One night I noticed a small twinge of pain in my wrist. At first I didn’t think about it much and thought it was because I was on the computer all the time and maybe my wrist was sore. Well… things kept going downhill from there. The pain kept increasing day by day and after about 2 weeks or so I started taking massive amounts of ibuprofen to try and mask the pain while I continued to work. Little did I know at this time how bad the pain was going to become.
In July 09 I walked into a general urgent care facility and they gave a diagnosis of possible carpal tunnel and sent me home with a wrist brace. I wore the wrist brace 24/7 for 7 days as they told me to. At the end of the 7 days my wrist felt even worse. I returned to the urgent care facility and they referred me over to a Orthopedic doctor. The Orthopedic doctor said that I needed physical therapy. So I then began a vigorous strengthening program for the next month.
Nerve Conduction Test and Surgery
That month came and went and I was still in a lot of pain. I returned to the Orthopedic doctor and he ordered a nerve conduction test. The results were negative. I was in so much pain that when the doctor recommended surgery anyways, because it might relieve some pressure on the median nerve, I agreed, and had the endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.
After another month of letting my hand heal from the surgery I noticed the same pain coming back. I was getting very discouraged at this point and was worrying about it almost 24/7. At this point I was spending probably a good 2 hours every night looking online for cures. I purchased 2 different ergonomic mice, but they didn’t help. I purchased therapy gloves, special pillows, different computer chairs, rearranged my computer workstation, started drinking only water, used Dragon speech dictation software, and many more things trying to help ease my pain.
I started seeing a chiropractor, he said my condition and pain was all due to bad posture and upper back. So for the next two months I saw him 3 days a week. But there was no progress on my pain, in fact it seemed to be getting gradually worse.
Emergency Room and Drugs
On a Saturday in December 09, I still remember the day, I ended up going to the emergency room over the weekend because the pain was so bad. They gave me Oxycodone which I began taking to ease the pain. The problem with this was that the Oxycodone would make me drowsy and it was very hard to keep going to classes and work.
Massage, UVray, Scar Tissue
Over the next couple months I saw many different doctors. I went to my orthopedic doctor and he wanted to send me to a 2nd physical therapist. At this point I was really frustrated and just left, never to return. I then had an MRI of my upper back and neck done. It showed a few slight protrusions but nothing abnormal. I had an X-ray done of entire right arm and hand and the diagnosis was that my bones were in perfect health. I then saw a Rheumatologist who diagnosed me with slight hypermobility and bad RSI. Something important that I didn’t realize until now is that the pain had moved to my hand and my fingers, leaving my wrist. I was having numbness, tingling, and lots of pain in my fingers.
At this point I was at my 7th month of chronic pain and could no longer take the pain. I was forced to drop out of school, leave work, and move back home to live with my parents. Thankfully my parents were very supportive through my entire struggle and they insisted that I go to a sports chiropractor. He started doing massage, UVray, and other treatments for RSI. I saw him for about 2 months and made some improvements. My hand was rock solid from scar tissue that had originated from the surgery. He helped break that scar tissue up. However, my hand was still in a lot of pain.
The Mindbody Prescription
The last month, May 2010 was the month that I made my discovery of a book my John E. Sarno called, The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain. I read this and found myself on almost every page in the book. The concept in the book literally changed my life forever.
It is called TMS, tension myositis syndrome. He describes how our subconscious distracts us with pain because of repressed emotions and stress. The subconscious stops the oxygen flowing to certain parts of the body, in my case, my hand, which then results in pain. The pain is real, not all in your head; however, it is not permanently damaging your body. This made sense to me because whenever I would get a massage I would always feel great leaving the the office, but then the pain would return an hour later. This was because the the massage had moved more blood into my hand, making it feel better. But once I would leave, my subconscious went right back to its distraction. I don’t want to go into the concept of TMS in too much detail because the books do that perfectly and they are essential to read if you are experiencing any kind of chronic pain.
Below is a video from 20/20, narrated by John Stossel, who was completely cured by Sarno’s method from years of back pain.
Another great book which I now love is Pain Free for Life by Scott Brady, MD. He gives the term TMS a new name, AOS which stands for Autonomic Overload Syndrome. Brady was completely healed from 7 years of back pain by Sarno and adds a third dimension to the mind-body idea which Sarno discusses. Brady emphasizes that it is a mind-body-spirit connection which we must acknowledge. For me this book was a much easier read than Sarno’s book. Sarno has a lot of technical information and scientific data that he presents. Brady simply explains the whole process and actually gives you the steps you need to do every day in order to cure yourself from chronic pain. Sarno is a little vague on actual specifics as far as what to do every day.
Below is a video interview with Dr. Scott Brady, MD on Good Morning Atlanta.
Another great source of support which helped me tremendously was by a forum started by ForestForTreesTMS. He started http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/ which is a forum dedicated to TMS and people suffering with chronic pain. There are hundreds of recovery stories on the forum. Also, the community of people can help you get better by sharing what they experienced. People who had repetitive strain injury (RSI) for over 10 years have been cured! If you head over to the forum you will most likely see that I am an active member.
A couple of other things that have helped me is journaling. Once you journal out those repressed emotions, there is no reason for the subconscious to distract us with pain because you are no longer repressing those emotions. Another one is pain talk. Remind yourself that your body is a healthy beast and not fragile. There is nothing wrong with your body and tell the pain to leave.
Getting Better – May 10, 2010
Since starting the TMS approach I have resumed all my previous activities, mowing lawns, edging, running, walking dog, etc. I have stopped all pain medication and like Scott Brady did, I took all my pills and threw them into the garbage. Got rid of my special pillow for my neck. Started a vigorous workout routine, not to strengthen arm, but because I love working out and I realize there is nothing wrong with my hand. I still have many moments at the computer with pain, especially on the mouse, that is still the part I am trying to reprogram. But I am confident that I am back on my way to my real life. I start work in two weeks and am moving back out of my parents house.
Throughout the month of May I noticed a few signs that I had TMS.
My physical therapist had said to switch my mouse from my right hand to my left hand while I heal. 3 days later, I started developing pain in my left hand. Now there is no way I could have developed a real repetitive strain injury in just three days.
Around May 10 there was a day that I almost had no pain for the first time in 10 months. But guess what, I had a huge headache. The brain will move symptoms around in its effort to keep the distraction alive.
I started doing yard work, and while mowing the lawn I didn’t have any pain, or at least very very little. If it was a repetitive strain injury, wouldn’t I be hurting while doing these tasks more than when I am just sitting still?
Everyone knows that doctors say to strengthen to cure repetitive strain injury (RSI). Well, I have been lifting weights, and very happy with my upper body, a plus I guess :). But when I am lifting weights most of my pain goes away. This agrees with the notion that more blood is flowing to my hand during that time, meaning I get more oxygen, meaning less pain.
As of May 23rd, 2010 I am about 70-85% pain free and am confident I will eventually be completely pain free. Thanks to Sarno, Brady, and the TMS forum I have gotten my life back. If you are experiencing any type of chronic pain you owe it to yourself to read their books and read the information on the forum; it could change your life forever. The books are cheap and the information on the forum is completely free, what have you got to lose? The purpose of my story was not only to let you know how it cured me but also to spread the word about TMS. It is something that is going to revolutionize the medical future as doctor’s soon discover that our brain and mind are much more powerful than we ever thought.
I do think God had a part in my TMS journey as well. A year ago, I was heading down a very rough road. I was drinking energy drinks daily, working 40+ hours a week plus taking full class loads and freelancing on the side, I wasn’t sleeping and was working 7 days a week. I think this experience showed me that my life was heading for destruction.
Positive results from my chronic pain experience
- A new found relationship with Jesus Christ (much lacking before)
- A whole different outlook on life and what is truly important. It doesn’t matter what we have, what we own, or how much money we earn; because for 10 months, I would have given up everything I owned just to be pain free.
- I now realize how important exercise and diet really is and how great our bodies can feel if we commit to them.
- Learned to enjoy and appreciate the little things in life.
- Learned how to stretch a dollar twice as far
January 6th, 2013 Update
95% pain free. I have control of my life and encourage anyone with pain to look into this if they have already gone down the medical routes with no success.
September 27th, 2014 Update
Still pain free! Working full time as an SEO + PPC specialist and blogging in the evenings.
January 29th, 2015 Update
I am still doing great with no pain at all and working on the computer full time.
September 13, 2016 Update
Haven’t had any pain since 2013. Going strong working on the computer 16+ hours a day! There is also a Kickstarter project and full length documentary coming out soon, called All the Rage: A Film About Dr Sarno, Emotions, and Health. All the Rage is a feature film about Dr. John Sarno and others who are pioneering mind body approaches to treating chronic illness. The Kickstarter project has 745 backers who pledged $81,681 to make it possible. I am one of the backers.
If you have any questions about repetitive strain injury, especially as it pertains to using a computer, please feel free to ask. I would be happy to answer any questions you have the best I can. Make sure you also check out http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/.