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RSI: Acknowledgement

So, I'm pretty sure I have a developing case of RSI on my hands (I actually wrote that without intending a pun, believe it or not). RSI (repetitive strain injury) is an overuse injury caused by a repetitive activity over a long period of time. More specifically, it's the hand, wrist and arm problems that some computer users get. This admission is simple enough but it actually took me a long time to accept the possibility that I might have it. I first started noticing some aching in my forearms in August, shortly after we moved, and immediately tried to write it off as something minor: a tennis injury, or strained muscles from moving furniture, or the adjustment to a new desk. When it didn't let up, I sought a doctor, who prescribed some anti-inflammatories and didn't seem too worried about it. When the drugs didn't help, I got a new chair and monitor stand and tried to pay more attention to my wrist position, but that was no quick fix either. The achiness subsided during a few weeks of light computer usage over the holidays but returned by mid-January.

This is when I started to get worried. How could this be happening to me? I've only been typing at a full-time job for two years. I get plenty of exercise. And I'm young! Everyone spends all day at a computer these days and many devote their evenings to blogging from fashionable PowerBooks, how come they're not having the same problems? Was my condition accelerated because of my years of piano playing? Or aggravated by the fact that I carry a twenty-odd pound weight around a lot of the time? This may sound overly dramatic, but it's kind of scary to see something developing that could potentially affect the way you make a living. After all, I can't exactly stop typing to let these problems clear up, but on the other hand if I can't stop them from worsening I might end up in a position where I can't work.

I started getting tired of the worrying and speculating so I decided to get informed. I just finished reading It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals, a book touted as the best second-generation RSI book (the RSI bible Repetitive Strain Injury : A Computer User's Guide being the first) and I would heartily recommend it to anyone that is interested in knowing more about RSI, whether you think you might have it or you want to make sure you do everything to avoid it. It's written by a therapist so the approach is more therapeutic than surgical, which suits me just fine. The book focuses on two things: understanding computer-related RSI as it relates to the whole body (and mind, for that matter), and outlining a comprehensive program for healing and recovery. Furthermore, I learned two things from this book: how to understand and evaluate my symptoms, and how to formulate and manage a plan for recovery. My condition seems to be something between 1st and 2nd degree RSI, as they define it--I have occasional to frequent symptoms, somewhat predictable, comprised of minor pain (mostly aching and burning) but with no apparent nerve involvement (no tingling, numbness, etc.). Could be better, could be worse.

Here is my plan of attack, which I'm putting down as much for my own good as anything else:

So that's the plan, subject to change at the doctor's recommendation. I'm hoping that by seeking help early and staying persistent I will be able to let my body heal so I can continue my current activity level without doing more damage. I find it hard to believe that there's already so much damage that this won't be possible but a quick Google search of my symptoms provides enough scary stories to keep me worried.

I'm not posting this here because I'm looking for advice (although I won't ignore it), but I am looking for support in the form of "I've been through that and this is how I got past it." At the very least, hopefully I can provide that for the next person that comes along looking for hope from fellow RSI sufferers.

February 19, 2005 | Comments (2)

Power, Glory, Sickness, Death

After much delay, I have finally finished reading my first Graham Greene novel, The Power and the Glory, and it lived up to all the hype. I wouldn't say that Greene is a master wordsmith but his simple style is very effective and I particularly enjoyed his imagery. What really made it all worthwhile for me was his commentary on the human condition, understated yet moving: the dichotomy of the strength and weakness of man, the interconnectedness of all people, the burden of sin and despair, etc. The whiskey priest is a fascinating character, pressing on even against his will at the call of his vocation yet humbled to nothing by the weight of the failures of his past. The scenes with his daughter are truly heartbreaking, "seeing his own mortal sin look back at him" through her eyes yet unable to repent because of his overwhelming love for her. I believe that Graham Greene is famous for toeing lines like this in matters of faith and if that's true, you can sign me up for a whole lot more.

But now on to some serious reading. Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death has sat on my shelf long enough and now must be read. It was recommended to me by an esteemed source as "nothing short of a diagnostic manual of the human spirit," so I will be thoroughly disappointed if I am anything less than completely overwhelmed. It should be an appropriate follow-up to the Graham Greene and I have the feeling that it might be a good choice to read during Lent. Time will tell.

February 10, 2005 | Comments (1)