Nov 4, 2008

Election night and other thoughts

Yes, I've been missing in action, without saying why. Nothing serious. A bit of idea drought, RSI, and happy moments that involve friends that are not comfortable with being blogged about. About that latter, I will merely say that I made a new friend on my trip to Trondheim this summer.

About the RSI (repetitive strain injury): My mouse arm (which sounds terribly dirty in Norwegian because, well, where in American one refers to a certain female body part as something akin to Tom, in Norwegian it is akin to Jerry) has been acting up. For quite a while, actually, and now so badly that I finally realized it was time to seek help. And it turns out that my company has a new health plan (actually, a medical treatment plan) and a new physical therapist with office hours in my building on Mondays (as far as I know). So last Thursday, while discussing the matter with my boss (every time I said "mouse arm" we both tried not to giggle - sheesh), it occurred to me to call the company doctor's office. I got a hold of the chief physical therapist there and she told me about the new guy and got me an appointment for Monday at 10 am.

He was a pleasant man whom I found I could relax with right away. We both agreed that I was quite self-aware and knew what had put me in my current state as well as what would likely fix it. But, I said, it's not enough, which is why I'm here, hoping you can give me some exercises that will help. He nodded and took me downstairs to the company's exercise room, and demonstrated a few core-strengthening exercises with straps and pullies. Sort of like pilates. The point was to strengthen the core muscles around the spine to help support and stabilize the large muscle groups supporting my arms.

Now, just being in an exercise room with mirrors along the wall and weights and mats and his and hers showers disheartens me because I never learned to enjoy exercising while I was in school. But, my arm matters (I do love my job) and I did ask for help. One of my co-workers likes to use the rowing machine every Tuesday at 2:30 pm so I asked if I could join him and if he could show me how to set the exercise bike (for warming up). He helped me rig the straps and set the bike and then he started rowing across some imaginary fjord, while I biked some imaginary Norwegian road complete with hills. Goodness! My legs really hated that and it was so b-o-r-i-n-g. So to heck with 15 minutes of peddling; I was warmed up after 6 and went to do my stabilizing exercises.

I enjoyed those because they remind me of yoga, of being able to concentrate on the moment, feel your own body and its responses, and adjust. Afterwards I did do an amputated yoga routine, mainly to stretch out, and when it was all over (even had the shower to myself - yay!), I felt pretty darned good. I'm even thinking about doing it all again Thursday! (Will miracles never cease...)

I go back to see the PT on Monday for half an hour of massaging (which he gave me the first visit, too) and progress report.

I was just helping a friend figure out how to use her new Mac without the mouse because she didn't want a repeat of RSI, only to find myself dealing with my own. Thing is, it's not necessarily the mouse use itself. It is how you use the mouse. From what I've learned on the internet, clicking fast is more harmful that pressing hard, and my PT confirms that, stating that speed prevents those muscles from getting a rest. I do everything fast, including typing and mousing. I have to learn to slow down [she typed at 80 wpm].

It's a matter of awareness, of being conscious, of bringing the yogic centering into the office, at the desk. I have something new to learn. I have to tell myself there's time enough and to take that time.

In the meantime, I have tomorrow off. Nice! And I intend to greet the morning bleary-eyed but hopefully grinning from ear to ear: Our main TV station will be broadcasting live from the election in the US and everybody is hoping Obama will win, including me, because I voted for him.

And even if I should decide to get to bed at a decent hour, come tomorrow, no matter who won, the world will be different.

PS: I intend to post more frequently. I just need to find a routine that will spare my "mouse arm".

8 comments:

alice said...

I had terrible problems with mouse arm in the spring -- to the point where my whole arm was going numb -- and my self-diagnosis was that it was a supporting-the-arm issue. A month or two of behavior modification fixed the problem and it hasn't been back!

Good luck with yours! Be patient!

Miz UV said...

New friend? Nice. :)

Hope you feel better. I signed a year's contract at Massage Envy because my neck hurts so much.

Keera Ann Fox said...

I need to ask you for details, Alice. :-)

Paula, massage helps a lot; I felt improvement immediately from the bit I got Monday. But it alone won't prevent the problem from coming back, so Alice's method it is. :-)

Sparkling Red said...

I find that using a gel-filled wrist-rest makes all the difference. I'd hate to have to slow down my typing. That certainly would be an exercise in awareness and restraint!

Keera Ann Fox said...

The advice I'm getting from several is to slow down and drop the shoulders. I need to learn to relax the shoulders again. I'm now trying to drop my arms to the side while watching YouTube or something.

But, darn it, I typed the above at 70 wpm. Sheesh.

I'll look into the gel support thing. Thanks for the tip, Spark!

Anonymous said...

I know it's not a technique that everyone feels comfortable with, but I've found incredible relief in fighting off RSI through ambidexterous mousing.

Of course, you may still want to use other treatments or exercises as well that specifically target your injury and mouse habits. But, a 50% reduction in mouse use can be a huge benefit for your injured arm. And once you become comfortable, the continued sharing of the burden between left and right really helps.

It will feel strange at first but after a few months the awkwardness of using the mouse with your non-mouse arm will disappear. I switch back and forth between left and right hands every 15-20 minutes, almost without realizing it anymore.

Good luck, joseph

Nicole said...

I feel your pain - I had problems with that for the longest while & this summer I had two numb fingers on my left hand (pressing my elbow on the desk while computing - dooh).
Hope you get well soon!

(And I hate exercising in those Gyms...but if it helps....!)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Hi, Joseph! I have already switched one mouse over to the left at work. Takes a bit of getting used to, but it also causes a similar pain in my left arm. :-( So I'm looking into trackpad-type solutions.

Nicole, I've had a similar RSI to yours. Finally had to re-teach myself to sit up straight. :-)