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Computer Arms
by Todd Pennington, LMT
When you have been sitting at the computer a long time, do your arms and wrists work the way you want them to? Do you hurt enough to complain to your boss, or even to talk to a doctor about it? Have you been told that you have Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)? Have you been told just live with the pain? Part of the problem could be computer use. There is hope; many people are getting help for their problem.

As you look at the screen and concentrate for hours, does your head pull in toward the screen? Do you relax after every screen of data or program? Most of us do not relax enough while working on the computer. The neck muscles tighten and it is not noticed at first. The arms rotate forward and the wrist starts to change. All of this, in time, becomes noticed as the pain starts to intrude into normal life. Sleeping starts to be interrupted and grip strength starts to drop. In time, the pain gets bad enough to complain to your partner; and in time to your boss.

One way to take care of the problem is to learn to relax. This is the cheapest way and is the most often over-looked method. Each program should first teach how to relax. I have yet to find one that does. Each time the screen changes take a moment to breath and let go of all of your tension. Every hour get up and walk for one to five minutes. Learn to stay relaxed and alert while doing your work. Getting tense and frustrated is common. Frequently, the more tense you get, the more difficult the work becomes. Look around. In many cases, the ones that stay relaxed can get more done, faster and are fresher at the end of the day.

The most common way of dealing with computer stress is to live with it. Next, is to change the workstation to improve the body position. Then comes the medical intervention. The total costs for the medical route frequently totals over $100,000 for a single case and takes six months to several years. When you go into the medical literature it is rare to hear of success rates of over 50 to 60%. If they do surgery, it takes weeks to recover and there is a good chance of the pain coming back. If nothing works, then frequently people move onto a different type of work.

There is another way. Massage, if done right, can get the muscles to relax and allow the head to move back. The shoulders rotate back toward normal and frequently the wrist relaxes. To get this result, many parts of the body need to be addressed. The rib cage has to be loosened. The neck muscles get relaxed. This even includes many of the muscles between the vertebrae. As each area of the upper body is taken care of, it is easier for the entire region to feel better. If you only glide over the surface then many of the deeper muscles do not relax. If you go deep into the main pain areas, many of the muscles causing the problem do not relax. Also, going deep into the pain areas can cause enough pain that you could be sore for a while and the healing may be limited. The easiest and fastest way is to relax the more distant causative areas first and then to work toward the problem areas. Frequently this technique releases the problem faster and more gently.

Repetitive Stress Injury Syndrome is complex and is often mis-diagnosed. One of the more common mistakes is to say that the problem is in the Carpal Bones (wrist) when the real cause is elsewhere. The neck and shoulder region control much of positioning of the arm bones. This also controls the tension on the muscles going through the Carpal region. To cut and open up the wrist and not take the tension off from the more distant muscles, can easily result in much of the pain returning. The same kind of mistakes can easily be made with the elbow, neck, low back and legs. All of the muscle tension of the body needs to be looked at and addressed when taking care of RSI.

Control Muscle Release Therapy is particularly effective at releasing the structure easily and gently. In many cases long term (chronic) conditions can be improved. For more information on this and many other subjects check my web site or call and request reprints of my articles.

Take care of your body now and it will help to take care of you later.

For more information or an appointment call Todd Pennington, LMT, 10175 SW Barbur Blvd. Suite 306, Portland OR 97219. (503) 244-4427, www.penningtonmassage.com.

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