Hobbies for RSI sufferers?
December 18, 2008 11:00 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is suffering really badly from RSI. If she's going to heal she needs to avoid using her hands... but this is leaving her bored to tears. What hobbies are suitable for RSI sufferers? She's not too keen on sports, although she has recently taken up yoga.
posted by simonw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
DDR only requires feet to work.
posted by Alison at 11:07 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Other videogames I can think of: kareoke-based games (Singstar, Lips, Rock Band, Guitar Hero WT), Wii Fit has some modes that are more like minigames than exercises, and I think they are coming out with a skiing game that works with the Wii Balance Board (although I might be confusing that with something else).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2008

Singing and some forms of dance (I'm thinking of belly dancing, but there are many others) are challenging, fun and don't involve using one's hands.

Learning a new language could also be good, if she can find a course that focuses on speech and listening instead of writing.
posted by metaBugs at 11:23 AM on December 18, 2008

IANAA. (I am not an anything, e.g. NOT a doctor or physical therapist.) In addition to yoga, weightlifting with fairly heavy weights, gripping the weights, and using a motion all the way through her shoulders...is something to do...and it'll probably make her wrists feel better.

When my wrists were funky, full-body activities that used my wrists and hands seemed to do a lot more good than not using my wrists and hands. Anyway, it would complement yoga really well.
posted by zeek321 at 11:26 AM on December 18, 2008

Be careful about the kind of yoga. If Hatha Yoga exacerbates her injuries she might try Iyengar Yoga. More strenuous forms are right out, of course.

weightlifting with fairly heavy weights, gripping the weights, and using a motion all the way through her shoulders...is something to do...and it'll probably make her wrists feel better.

Do not, do not, do NOT do this without discussing it with your physical therapist first. Seriously. Some weight training can improve things, and some can make it worse. And it's probably best to avoid whatsoever during the initial recovery period.

A book chair or similar makes it easier to read.
posted by grouse at 11:35 AM on December 18, 2008

If she's into writing, can she get voice recognition for her computer so she can write?
posted by orange swan at 11:38 AM on December 18, 2008

2nding metabugs about language. I'm really enjoying Michel Thomas' French courses. I brought all the CDs into iTunes and turned each one into a chaptered audiobook with Join Together. She'll have to be able to hit the pause button repeatedly while listening, but maybe she can get good with her toes.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:00 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

read books? It only involves turning a page every once in a while.
posted by alloneword at 12:14 PM on December 18, 2008

If she really needs to do some exercise without forcing her hands, try swimming (if you can get in a pool). When my one arm was out of commission from a car running over it, I was still able to swim.
posted by notsnot at 12:21 PM on December 18, 2008

A little caution on Rock Band/Guitar Hero: if she really gets into it and wants to go all Expert on guitar, then I can't guarantee her hands will be fine after playing Green Grass ;).

But seriously, dancing (maybe tap-dancing - definitely no hands required), taking walks, books, listening to music, singing. If she wants, she can learn how to draw/paint with her feet or mouth.
posted by curagea at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2008

Crossword puzzles and the like? Hopefully she can still hold a pencil ...

Assuming her hands are not completely immobilized, maybe certain crafts might be OK. Embroidery tends to be slow-paced and not terribly repetitive (unlike knitting or crocheting, which absolutely kill my wrists). Using a sewing machine is pretty joint-friendly, although stay away from scissors for cutting the fabric (use a rotary cutter; there are some that claim to be particularly good for sore hands). I have mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome and I can do these things even though I can't knit any more.

I've never tried it, but maybe some papercraft like scrapbooking or making greeting cards might scratch her itch (again, avoid scissors and cut with a rotary cutter or X-Acto knife). Origami? It involves intricate little hand movements but not fast repetitions.

My sympathies - I've had to give up things I enjoy doing because of joint problems. (Don't get me started on my stupid lousy knees ...)
posted by Quietgal at 1:06 PM on December 18, 2008

I'm half seriously suggesting learning about speech recognition technology, and then learning to develop some. Users need to help out here. Very often this technology is developed by geeks who have no idea of human needs. Some of the best software is developed through personal need. Sphinx is probably the best place to start (if that were an option).
posted by fcummins at 1:06 PM on December 18, 2008

I disagree about the embroidery recommendation; I've found embroidery to be very hard on my wrists (I still do it, just not for long stretches at a time).

If it's at all possible, have her see an orthopaedist who specializes in hands. I struggled with a diagnosis of tendinitis in my left wrist for years (mucho oucho), only to have a hand surgeon find in less than a minute the ganglion cyst that was causing the problem. With complex parts like hands, there is no substitute for specialized knowledge.
posted by workerant at 1:18 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

swimming is good. yoga is excellent, just tell the teacher what you're dealing with so they can caution you as to which poses will be harmful and which poses might hurt a little but are still helpful.

weights are a TERRIBLE idea (unless the doctor specifically says it's okay, which i would find doubtful), as is embroidery. origami could also be painful. little intricate movements, having to hold the hand/fingers in a certain position for a period of time are all things that need to be avoided.

nthing reading, you can get her a book stand so she can read without having to hold the book (that used to irritate my RSI something awful).

board games?
posted by micawber at 1:24 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tai chi?
posted by ocherdraco at 1:53 PM on December 18, 2008

I don't understand the crafters' answers - she can't use her poor hands!

Recumbent bike riding (in the gym)?
Walking/hiking/skiing/snowshoeing (depending on your location, of course)
Reading; catching up on "the classics" (books and movies).

I sympathize, it's difficult to consider activities that *don't* require the hands.
posted by pkphy39 at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2008

Tap dancing or Irish step dancing?
Oral storytelling?
posted by cadge at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2008

She may be eligible for Books on Tape from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, as she has a physical disability that prevents her from reading a regular book. (I don't know how bad her RSI is).

Plus, the tape machines that you can borrow for free have large enough buttons that they can probably be operated with her feet.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:49 PM on December 18, 2008

I don't know about the girlfriend's particular diagnosis, but I know my tendonitis wouldn't have allowed jarring activities like DDR and running. (In fact, my wrist still bothers me when I run sometimes.)

I had been a very avid crafter, but about the only thing I was still sort of able to do was sew -- if somebody cut the fabric for me. I could still pin fabric together and feed it through the machine. Still frustratingly slow.

Ultimately, I just learned how to play World of Warcraft with my left hand alone, and stuck it out until I got better. (It took surgery.) Sorry. She has my sympathy.
posted by liet at 3:45 PM on December 18, 2008

maybe off topic, but have her look into Dr. Sarno's books.
posted by distrakted at 5:36 PM on December 18, 2008

Best answer: I found yoga really helpful when my RSI was severe, but some styles can be hard on the hands. Doing poses that involved hand weight bearing (like downward dog) really made it worse for me. Your girlfriend might look into yin yoga and restorative yoga, which involve passive poses, usually on the floor. If she dislikes sitting still, this may drive her nuts. But this type of yoga allows nice deep stretches (which can help with RSI, especially chest opening poses) and also deep relaxation. Since having bad RSI is so unbelievably frustrating, the relaxation can help a lot.

Does she like to read? Magazines are good because she doesn't have to hold them open. She could get a book weight so she doesn't have to hold the book open. Personally I found the slouched posture I usually was in when reading made my RSI worse, even if I wasn't holding a book.

Exercise helped a lot for me. Running and hiking were particularly good. Once my RSI was no longer acute, I found that some hand-intensive exercise actually helped. I rock climbed and lifted weights; my theory was that strengthening the muscles and getting more blood flow to my arms helped. Other people I knew had good experiences with swimming and martial arts (no punching things, though).

Some other ideas:
Playing board games - friends could move the pieces for her.
Having parties - invite people over, drink, talk.
Cooking with friends - she couldn't do a lot of the cooking stuff herself, but maybe could watch the simmering pot or time things.
Movie night - have friends over once a week to watch something. A TV show could be good, so there is continuity from week to week.
Performing - singing lessons, improv class, acting in a play.
Volunteering - tutoring, phone banking, going door to door, welcoming people at an event.
Babysitting or playing with kids.
Dancing and listening to music.
Going out to dinner and/or shopping (this can get expensive).
Listening to podcasts or public radio.
Courses on tape - often available at the public library.
posted by betterton at 6:18 PM on December 18, 2008

More strenuous forms [of yoga] are right out, of course.

Strenuous yoga can be very therapeutic for RSI.
posted by GPF at 8:57 PM on December 18, 2008

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