RSI, or repetitive strain injury, is a recurrent pain in one or both wrists, forearms and hands caused by overuse or repetitive activity. It can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, one of which is inflammation of the tendons in the limb leading to swelling which impinges on the nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one form of that. Or at least, that's what it said on the page I found by Googling RSI.
The condition generally known as RSI affects a wide range of people, and while it’s traditionally associated with excessive keyboard work it can affect anyone who works with their hands. It’s very prevalent amongst musicians but has also affected farm workers, construction workers, and people with hobbies such as knitting. In 2016 the Health and Safety Executive compiled figures indicating that 21% of adults in the UK suffer with RSI, leading to pain, tingling and numbness in the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and shoulders.
Traditional treatment focuses on physiotherapy for the wrists although a study conducted in Australia in 2000 by the RSI Association, physiotherapy was one of six treatments which had adverse effects on 20% of participants. Another two of the six were cortisone injections and carpal tunnel surgery. Bowen therapy, however, was one of several alternative therapies that were very successful for most who tried them, with little or no adverse effects.
Why could this be? Janie Godfrey, writing in ‘Today’s Therapist’ in 2004, stated that “the effects of RSI can make themselves felt at any number of points along the pathway of the repeatedly used area. It is very necessary to look at the person as a whole because RSI is almost always the manifestation of misalignment in the spine, neck or jaw. It is not just the repetitiveness but how the body holds itself in relation to all of the demands made on it, including mental and emotional demands.” (Incidentally we'll come back to that point later).
As you can see from this diagram, there are very many muscles that affect movement of the arm; muscles in the wrist are also attached to the elbow and muscles in the elbow are also attached to the shoulder. This diagram doesn't show the equally intimate relationship between the shoulder and the neck. It’s very unlikely, therefore, that any problem with the wrist is going to be isolated to the wrist alone.
If you go to a physio with wrist and forearm pain, it’s unlikely that they will look at your spine, your neck or even your shoulder. Bowen therapy by its very nature treats the whole body, and one of its major benefits is that it prompts rebalancing and proper alignment of the body. Following Bowen therapy, people are often more aware of their body posture which also helps them address the root cause of the problem.
Some clients find that after the first Bowen treatment for RSI the pain moves to their neck or shoulder; this further reinforces the suggestion that RSI, while manifest in the wrist, could have its origins elsewhere in the body.
Of course Bowen therapy isn’t a guaranteed cure for RSI or anything else, but its track record is good and if you’re in pain, isn’t it worth a try?