Recover from / cure carpal tunnel syndrome / RSI (repetitive stress injury) without surgery


(0) RSI prompted me to spend less time using computer keyboards. I joined choirs and began doing more non-computer things. I also took breaks from typing when I was using a computer. My body was teaching me something about how to live. In retrospect it was shocking how I had managed to ignore the symptoms until they could no longer be ignored. Using the computer was that compelling. Recently I've developed a little prayer/mantra to help me avoid doing that in other areas (eating for example). I haven't mastered life yet, but here it is:

Am I caring for our body? Am I caring for our mind? Am I aware of our ground?

 (1) I found a keyboard which did not push back on my fingers. [I went through several ergonomic keyboards (this was back in 2003--the microsoft natural, I think). They were useless as they still had keys that push back hard. That key kickback would send a shock through my hand and up the wrist--and still does, if I focus on it.] Mac keyboards are better than Dell keyboards for example (circa 2006). I use a certain version (perhaps no longer made) of the GrandTec Mini-VIC. VIC stands for virtually indestructable keyboard (not at all true, however). I found that newer versions of these rubber keyboards (in 2005) have keys that push back more, however, than the old one I've been babying along and trying to keep working. I imagine those keyboards that are infra-red light projected on a flat surface would also work.

(1.5) I renewed a weight lifting routine which I had let slide. I use Joyce Vedral's Top Shape routine with reps usually of 10, 8, 6 [x3, e.g. biceps 10,8,6; triceps 10,8,6; legs 10,8,6; x3 (three different exercises per muscle)]. I alternate biceps, triceps, legs on one day with chest, shoulders, back on the next day, usually spending 30 minutes per session. As long as I keep eating some animal products--usually a little every day, such as some buttermilk or canned Jack Mackerel, I enjoy keeping up this routine as many as 5 days/week. I haven't been able to keep it up while on a vegan diet--though I think it could be done using yeast and eating grubs or other insects (not really vegan then, but at least avoiding industrial fishing/dairy).

(2) I learned the DVORAK keyboard layout. This had two effects: my typing slowed down significantly while learning the layout--giving my hands time to un-stress; and it requires less finger movement to use. I printed out the keyboard layout and kept it near the keyboard until I had it memorized. Search on the internet (or your computer's help/control panel) for how to change the keyboard layout.

Eventually I was able to switch between touch-typing qwerty and touch-typing dvorak easily. Even in computer labs--especially on the Macs--it can be possible to change the layout to dvorak. 

Also, this learning process was fascinating to experience. A previously automatic behavior was broken down and then re-automaticised with new levels of ability (keyboard layout switching, for example).

(2.5) My employer at the time was very friendly and helpful, and I was free to go slower (I wouldn't have been of any use at all otherwise). Nowadays using computers is only a minor part of how I make money. At the time that my RSI made me painfully aware of my RSI, I was programming/computer fiddling as many as 12 hours a day, 4 hours paid, the rest my own projects.

(3) The mouse is another serious problem. I use a logitech track-man track ball turned sideways, used with my left hand (or right), so I use the thumb (or pinkie) to press the buttons/ scroll, and my middle fingers to operate the ball. When I use computers with mice (which I avoid doing), I usually use the mouse with my left hand. (My right hand, wrist, and shoulder still have problems--some of which may be related to swimming.)

Last Notes

I don't have a huge problem with RSI anymore partly because my life has changed significantly from when I did. I was only working part time at the time, so once I stopped doing computer stuff on my own time, I only needed to be at a keyboard for 17 hrs/week. 

Then I quit that job, and over the course of 4/2003-10/2003, bicycled across the US, visiting ecovillages and other communities. Squeezing the brake levers and shifting was somewhat irritating, but not as bad as daily computer usage.

I later got work as a challenge course facilitator--partly to challenge me to work in front of people, and also because I knew I didn't want to do work by myself with a computer any more.

Now things are even more different--see (circa fall 2007) for some details.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote something along the lines of: It's not what your computer can become, it is what you can become.

I've also been aided and guided by renunciation--I got that challenge course job, for example, because it was in the neighborhood of my grandma's house, who I still live with. I don't use a car, and only rarely use public transit. Mostly I only go where I can walk. 

Some other history.