Suffering from RSI, looking for advice.

over 5 years ago from , UX lead @ m2mobi

Since 6 months I have been suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury in my forearms and hands. I went through all 3 stages of RSI and am currently in a position where the pain has become chronic.

I stopped working (UX design) 4 weeks ago to give some rest to my arms by not using my MacBook and smartphone. I have been to multiple doctors but without any result. Nobody seems to be able to help me.

I have altered my workspace, bought a Wacom tablet/pencil, perform all sorts of stretching and strengthening exercises, fixed my working position.

Has anyone experienced the same during his career and can provide me with some advice/experience? Thank you in advance,



  • Leonardo Hauschild, over 5 years ago

    I went through that rodeo, I've bought a Wacom tablet, built an ergonomic desk (the height of the desk and monitor were for me key), bought a good chair (Steelcase Please), and went first to physiotherapy.

    After getting through the first hurdle of stopping the pain, my Doctor sent me to the gym. His words were: "You need to prepare your body for your activity just like an athlete does". Getting stronger and fitter helped me a lot. That was 8 years ago.

    That worked for me, naturally your mileage may vary. I hope you get well soon.

    Cheers, Leonardo

    8 points
  • , over 5 years ago

    OP here, I just wanted to say; thank you for all the messages. I felt a bit overwhelmed when I opened designernews this afternoon. I know some people think that our community has become more passive aggressive / unpleasant over the years, but this topic has proven for me that people actually do still take time to write something useful and be supportive. Thanks,

    3 points
  • Paul @StammyPaul @Stammy, over 5 years ago

    Hi there - this is most definitely me. I started getting pain 2-3 years ago. It got the point where I experimented with wrist braces and kinesio tape on my wrists.

    What works for me today -- almost never use laptop on its own. Pain comes back pretty instantly when using the trackpad and frequently moving hand from keyboard to trackpad in that confined space. When on a desktop with monitor (also don't like looking down at laptop - unrelated but hurts my neck after a short while) I have a regular mouse (a good sized Logitech MX Master https://amzn.to/2Ls5151) and then I have a vertical Evoluent mouse (like this but there are other vertical mice, like anker has one i think https://amzn.to/2OlXmTt ) so when I get pain I switch to the other mouse and that provides some relief. My RSI is mainly in my right wrist though.

    I also do some basic stretches and weights here and there but think the biggest thing that has helped - using my phone less at night. I can instantly feel it the next day if I was up late on my phone for hours the night before.

    I experimented with using a wacom tablet and didn't see a change in anything.

    2 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I can really relate to the phone usage problem, I’m trying to use it as less as possible. Though as a native app designer, it’s proven hard!

      Take care!

      0 points
  • Ben Grace, over 5 years ago

    Things that have helped me are 1) stretching 2) understanding trigger points 3) working out

    1) lots of good resources if you google. Understanding how stretching and working on trigger points are reciprocal is important.

    2) This book is really helpful The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

    Best advice I can give is to find a really good massage therapist that understands myofascial release. WAY more beneficial in my opinion that seeing a doctor. Doctors are not as helpful with RSI IMO. I'd recommend doing this right now. Pay the money for several sessions. Invest in your body, ask them questions on what you can do at home on your own.

    I use a lacrosse ball or a theracane for trigger points. I find mine start on the sides of my back, my neck and down my forearms. ALL of these trigger points relate to my wrist and hand.

    3) Work out. Find a good mix of exercises and especially do ones that are opposite than what you do all day long. If you click down on the mouse, do an opposite exercise that pushes up. This helps you balance.

    Also, get your body into a good ergonomic position throughout the day, but also find excuses to move. Sit and stand. Drink lots of water so you HAVE to take bathroom breaks.

    1 point
    • , over 5 years ago

      This comment is so useful! Thank you so much.

      0 points
    • perfume lperfume l, over 5 years ago

      Another vote for learning about trigger point - or massaging in general.

      You can stretch and strengthen muscle all you want. But you know that feeling, that annoying ache & pain, deep down somewhere in your muscle,...that refuse to go away no matter how hard you stretching.

      It relieved by massaging the trigger point! :) Really recommended!

      EDIT: Some commenter mention TMS, and how our mind related to our injury. After reading some success stories, I have to say that I'm really eager to try!

      0 points
  • Jimmy HookerJimmy Hooker, over 5 years ago

    If you've been to multiple doctors and they cannot find a physical explanation for your symptoms, I recommend reading John Sarno's books. There are multiple success stories in tech from very skeptical people who have come down with intense RSI pain (Carpel Tunnel basically).

    Bring your own skepticism and take everything with a grain of salt, but if surgery is your next consideration, I would definitely try this first.



    1 point
  • Joe PacalJoe Pacal, over 5 years ago

    I suppose, at this point I'll be mostly bringing wood to the forest but it may be good to repeat for validation...

    • I find absolute necessity in proper workout (calisthenics or lifting), getting those strained parts moving and under load.

    • Stretching definitely also helps, but not going neurotic and stretching all the time... That tends to make things worse for me.

    • Wearing wrist braces at night is very helpful on long workdays!

    • Typing as if your keyboard was a piano (search for good piano seating and hands posture). Much of it applies for working on the computer.

    • Finally, for days where there's just no space for recovery (say multi-day client workshops, deadline crunches, etc.), the good ol' 90s gadget Powerball comes to rescue. Somehow it works the wrists well enough to relieve my pain almost instantly.

    0 points
  • Koos Looijesteijn, over 5 years ago

    I used to be active in an RSI prevention group. At that time I learned that RSI is a mental stress issue presenting itself as a physical problem. This is worsened by a whole (mostly well intended) industry of ergonomic gadget makers. In some countries (I believe Australia is one of them), RSI doesn’t even exist in medical stats.

    It’s not that the gadgets, desks and better posture don’t help. But most people don’t get RSI from doing without. If they help, I believe it is just it is a physical change that lets you use your body differently, elleviating stress from the parts that were suffering before. Also any intervention can make you more conscious of your posture, making you more mindful if you will. That reduces stress and would actually cause the improvement.

    I’m all for ergonomic workstations though, they have all kinds of other health benefits. But for most people that are not using some sort of extremely unergonomic hardware, mental relaxation is most important. I’m not talking about watching TV or something, but proper, active relaxing. Mindfulness meditation, walking in a green environment, being with people you love. This is also why sports can be effective. Besides the physical, it takes your mind off of stressful stuff.

    0 points
  • Scott SmithScott Smith, over 5 years ago

    I haven't had it nearly as bad as some people, but a few things that have helped:

    • switching from the Apple Magic Mouse to a Logitech Performance MX
    • a few years ago when it was bad, wearing a wrist brace at night to help let the muscles heal
    • doing some stretches with my fingers throughout the day

    The one thing I haven't solved yet is my upper back pain from sitting at my desk (probably from bad posture I will admit). Though I have a sit/stand desk, it hasn't gone away completely.

    0 points
  • Steve HickeySteve Hickey, over 5 years ago

    So I tried just about everything that's been listed so far in here. Each thing helped a little in it's own way, but one thing helped above all others:

    Wearing wrist braces while I sleep.

    I've been dealing with this for over 3 years. Wearing the braces to sleep seems to be what finally got my left wrist back to about 99%, where I almost never feel any problems with it any more. As recently as 3 months ago I started wearing them on my right wrist again, which started off far worse. I was resigned to it never being 100% again, but wearing the braces to bed again seems to have got me to the point where I don't feel either wrist any more.

    My doctor's theory was that I fold my wrists/hands up underneath me when I sleep, completely negating valuable healing time. Wearing the braces gave me 8-9 hours of uninterrupted healing time each day. In combination with all the other things listed here I went from "Oh crap what if I can't ever work again?" to feeling 99%+ even when I have heavy periods of production work at my job.

    I recommend giving it a try. Don't get the crazy stretchy ones that snug up real tight either. Get the big, dorky "I sprained my wrist" ones and wear them slightly looser than feels reasonable. Restricting blood flow while you sleep might impair healing.

    0 points
  • Tyler Fowler, over 5 years ago

    Tim Ferriss made this 10-minute video on some therapy techniques he uses that may help you as well. Link > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzXM3mPs6z0

    Personally, I do heavy compound lifting with a few auxiliary lifts mixed in 2-3 times a week with 2-3 days rest between. This makes my life better in so many ways. I'm more relaxed, think more clearly, and crave healthier foods, and have more energy overall. I also use a foam roller and lacrosse balls to work out strained muscles, sort of a painful self-massage....but it works! Check out Kelly Starrett's book, Becoming a Supple Leopard for easy to learn and follow info.

    At my desk, I try to be conscious of my body position and try to do something physically different for a few minutes every few hours.

    0 points
  • Wayne Petzler, over 5 years ago

    The things that worked for me were having a desk that goes low enough for my hands to be slightly lower than my elbows. And not using a fullsized keyboard so that my elbows remain close to my sides.

    Also, stop if you feel pain. You need to take time off and let it heal.

    0 points
  • Aaron CalzadoAaron Calzado, over 5 years ago

    Have you thought about not using your hands?


    Also, there are trackballs with foot switches (for right and left click) that you can use.



    Also, I feel that the new magic track pad works wonders. I've been a magic trackpad user for years and by using the gestures and tap to click I saved a ton of miles on my arms.

    0 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      Thank you for your response. I switched to the Magic Trackpad 2 a couple of months ago, but with no success. I actually found out that the position your hand/wrist has while using the Magic Trackpad is even worst for my nerves / oxygen flow. But anyhow, if it works for you that’s awesome.

      I’m switching between Wacom and Magic Mouse now, when I work. Ill look into your considerations on amazon ASAP :) thanks!

      0 points
  • John PJohn P, over 5 years ago

    bought a Wacom tablet/pencil

    This isn't necessarily a solution, could just be shifting the problem and it'll come back eventually, it still puts strain on your wrist and fingers.

    Biggest solution for me has been making sure my desk is set up right for me, chair has to be high so my arms are aimed down towards the keyboard. Also things like the low travel butterfly switch Macbook Pro keyboard are ticking RSI time bombs, due to the increased intensity you have to hammer at the keys and the sharp stop of the low travel. Get a good external keyboard.

    I also remapped a few keyboard shortcuts I used often that were extremely painful to do which might have been culprits.

    Suffering through it for 6 months is a big mistake, the second it starts tot occur you need to change something because even the slightest pain will take over a week to heal and it just gets longer and longer the more you leave it.

    0 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      I will definitely remap some keyboard combinations :) Sketch has proven itself to be a monster command (+shift) c/v abuser.

      Yes, I have ignored the pain for way to long. Hopefully now I will recover soon :(

      Thanks for your message, John

      0 points
  • Batuhan Dogan, over 5 years ago


    It's about ergonomic movement (not ergonomic devices).

    Search for Taubman approach and Feldenkrais on youtube and Quora please. You will find some answers.

    Please read this: https://www.slideshare.net/mkogut/tendonitis-slide2

    and this:


    Take a look at other answers from that guy on Quora.

    You can also ask me.

    I have been suffering from RSI and now recovering.

    Best wishes.

    0 points