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What to do about Rubik's wrist, RSI and pain related to cubing and other activies?

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This is basically a tutorial, but it's not directly related to cubing, so I've posted it in the off topic discussion. This thread might be completely useless to the majority of the forum, but if I can prevent a couple people from getting a Repetitive Stress Injury (or RSI), then I've done my part.

Going through school in massage therapy, I've been surprised how many people are completely clueless when it comes to their own pain and injuries. You might be thinking that you can't get injured from cubing, but that's far from the truth.

First, lets look at RSI's. While it may seem like cubing is something that is non-strenuous, it is a perfect example of an activity that can cause an RSI.

RSI's are usually caused from rapid and repeated movements, like the movements associated with fingertricks. They're also caused by forceful movements. Although forceful movements are not common with smaller lubricated cubes, larger cubes, such as v-cubes, the Dayan + MF8 4x4, and unlubricated dayan cubes can be quite stiff. They often need countless hours of breaking in before they're suitable for speedcubing. However, just because your cube is broken in and lubricated, that does not make it impossible for you to get an RSI. The repetitive stress injuries caused by these physical aspects of cubing is called "Rubik's Wrist".

The best thing a person can do for Rubik's wrist, and other RSI's is to take action to avoid getting it in the first place. Here's what you need to do to for prevention:

Warm Up and Cool Down: If you play an instrument, or you're in another sport, you could be tired of hearing this. Coaches and instructors are completely right when they tell you to warm up. It's the same thing with cubing. Don't just go straight into doing the sexy move as fast as you can. Warming up with solve or two slower than your maximum speed is probably good enough for a warm up. Doing excessive stretching is not great to do before cubing, because it can actually negatively affect your performance. Stretching after cubing is a great cool down though! The same thing goes for computer related activities.

Use a good cube: Beginners don't need beginner cubes. That doesn't mean they need the absolute best cubes for speedcubing, but if you struggle to turn a 3x3x3, you should probably get a different one. Yes, 4x4x4s and up can need breaking in, but you shouldn't speedsolve with them until you've broken them in.

Don't break in cubes all at once: If you're going to rush to break in a cube, then let other people mess with it too. Don't do it by yourself. Otherwise, just be patient. After 20 solves on an unlubricated, non-broken in v-cube 7, your wrists and hands could be hurting. This isn't a good thing. The "no pain, no gain" principle doesn't apply here.

Now, if you've already started to have pain, here's what you should do.

STOP: Stop cubing. Stop typing. Immediately. That won't help the pain, and it won't help your times.

PRICE:
P- Protection if necessary
R- Rest
I- Ice
C- Compression
E- Elevation

Go to the Doctor: If pain doesn't go down, or there is swelling, you should go to the doctor. The doctor might tell you to take anti-inflammatory drugs if there is acute inflammation. Probably nothing more than ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil?) will be needed. Getting a second opinion isn't always a bad thing either.

Seek Out Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, or Other Therapies: Massage can work wonders for conditions like tendinitis, epicondylitis or bursitis. If you're really interested in the effects of massage therapy, you can ask me, or just look on google I'm not an expert yet, but I can directly ask my instructors. Physiotherapists can give specific exercises and stretches that can help prevent the RSI from happening again. You might think these therapies are too expensive. If that's the case, you should try to find a massage therapy school. They might offer massages for a lesser price than a registered massage therapist. My school offers 50 minute treatments for $25.

Some people might want to search for alternate medicine and acupuncture. These can work wonders for some people if you have a good doctor or acupuncturist.

Finally, I just thought I'd say that RSI's are not fun. I had acute tendinitis symptoms that were partly caused from cubing on a QJ 5x5. I wasn't able to do any cubing for a week, and couldn't massage at school. Even after I was done, my 3x3x3 times went up by 7 seconds, up to 21-22 seconds. Right now I'm finally getting back to my normal times
____
Okay, now lets look at posture. I would guess that at least 95% of people have poor posture at some point during the day. Sitting while cubing is pretty common, and it can cause a lot tension. I realize this probably isn't going to change. You could be slouching forward, and you could have your shoulders up. Why is this a problem? This overstretches some muscles in your back, it shortens muscles in your chest, and it tightens many muscles in the front and side of your neck and shoulders. This can cause headaches and conditions involving compression of blood vessels and nerves, such as Thoracic Outlet syndrome. Over a long period of time, this slouching posture can actually cause you to have a permanent hump back. The creation of the computer is something that contributes to people starting to get this hump at a younger age.

So if you find yourself sitting for a long time, and slouching, make sure you stretch! Stretch the muscles in your chest to prevent that muscular shortening, stretch the muscles in your neck to prevent headaches, and do this for every hour you sit. Also, make sure you get up and walk around every once in a while. You'll thank yourself later. If anybody in the forum finds this useful, but wants specific stretches, PM me. One more thing- Drink water. Water is good.

If you didn't go tl;dr, congrats. I hope this isn't useless to everybody. If it's not useful for cubing, apply it to other things you do, however, I hope it's useful for some people.

Edit: I've decided to add a second part related to posture. It's more like a mini-guide for stretching.

Guide to Stretching for Speedcubers

As I discussed earlier, speedcubing can have a major effect on your posture. You could easily slouch without noticing it, or have your head forward. One good way to prevent this from causing stress and pain in your body is to stretch. This guide doesn't have to be to be used exclusively for speedcubing. Anybody that works at a computer, types, or plays video games will have the same types of postural problems. So will students. Before I get into the specific stretches that would be beneficial, I'll just say a few things about what to do when you stretch.

Ease into it
If you stretch, and you go straight to your maximum stretch, you could actually cause your body to reflexively contract the muscles very quickly. Overall this shortens the muscles, making the stretch essentially useless. If a stretch takes 30 seconds, take 10-15 of those seconds easing into it.

Don't Bounce
This has a similar effect to the point above.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
It's not really effective otherwise. 'nuff said.

Stretch often
If you are going to sit for hours a day, get up every hour and stretch. You can do a different stretch each hour if you must. The user timeless actually just gave me an article on how it's bad to sit for a long time in general. http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_19/b4177071221162.htm I figure it deserves some attention. If you're already experiencing some postural issues, then stretching is even more important.

So here are the stretches speedcubers should do especially if they sit often.

Wrist stretches http://howtostretch.com/wriststretches.html
Pec/Chest stretches http://www.exrx.net/Stretches/ChestGeneral/Doorway.html
side neck stretch http://www.exrx.net/Stretches/TrapeziusUpper/Trap.html
front neck stretch http://www.recsports.ufl.edu/fitness/fitness-assessment-center/corrective-exercises/scm-stretch/
hip flexor stretches http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/flexibilityandstretching/qt/hip-flexor.htm
calf stretch http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_57gh5PY9g10/TT0TPkc1tkI/AAAAAAAABog/qgVfd6Pdjf4/s1600/calf-stretch.jpg
hamstring stretch http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3yWt9r0D0...F2eZI/s1600/Alternative hamstring stretch.jpg

I could add more, but this is good for basic stretches. You can also do a full body stretch (like what you'd do when you get out of bed). Hopefully this is enough for people that were interested.
 
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#4
Very helpful guide. I have really bad posture when I practice on my snare pad with my shoulders really scrunched up. I didn't think it had an effect, but I guess now I should try to fix that.
 
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One thing I noticed about rubik's wrist is that it doesn't appear to be related to how hard you practice on a specific day at all. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not, even before I start cubing for a day. It definitely appears on a period where I'm cubing regularly though.
 
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Yeah, if you have a period of time where you practice a lot, you could definitely be giving yourself rubik's wrist. If you start to feel pain, just stop though. Even if it's just a little bit.

Edit: If I have time, later today I think I'm going to post some stretches that are good for posture, if you sit at a computer, or sit down cubing for quite a while during a day. Most people in general would benefit from these stretches, especially students.
 
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AndyK

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Very nice post. Just wanted to point out that carpal tunnel syndrome should be on the differential diagnosis for wrist pain as well and it is a much more serious condition than RSI since it can lead to permanent nerve damage. Carpal tunnel syndrome can start out as wrist pain, but the key difference is that you will also have neurological symptoms like paresthesias (which often feels like pins and needles or burning) as well as numbness or weakness. Paresthesias indicate nerve irritation and can often be treated with the same steps you mentioned (including going to see a doctor). The bad part is the numbness and weakness, that indicates nerve damage that can either take a long time to repair or can actually be permanent. If you get numbness or weakness in your wrist related to cubing, go see a doctor. They will probably tell you to rest your wrist for up to 3-6 months and to wear wrist splint at night. If serious enough or if that doesn't help they may do nerve conduction studies and depending on the results there, they may recommend surgery or steroid injections.

I somehow gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome back in November and it really sucked. I had to stop cubing for about 9 months. Fortunately it seems there is no permanent damage.
 
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I noticed most people will warm up but never bother cooling down. I think you should sticky this because I'm pretty sure a lot of people have felt pain and rubik's wrist at least once and want to see how to prevent it.

I started cubing regularly and I noticed this little bump of muscle (or something) on my left arm near my wrist when I OH. It's not on my right arm and one day I could barely move my left arm but after a day it stopped. I randomly get pain when I OH now for some reason. Can't even do an average of 5 without feeling pain and I can't switch to right hand.
 
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I noticed most people will warm up but never bother cooling down. I think you should sticky this because I'm pretty sure a lot of people have felt pain and rubik's wrist at least once and want to see how to prevent it.

I started cubing regularly and I noticed this little bump of muscle (or something) on my left arm near my wrist when I OH. It's not on my right arm and one day I could barely move my left arm but after a day it stopped. I randomly get pain when I OH now for some reason. Can't even do an average of 5 without feeling pain and I can't switch to right hand.
What you're experiencing pain like this, it might be caused by something called a trigger point. Do you feel the pain sometimes go down your arm, almost into your hand? Or does the pain almost travel somewhere else when you're doing OH cubing?

Edit: AndyK, it's good that there's no permanent damage. Yes, constant stress on your wrists can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. That's one reason it's a good idea to warm up AND cool down. Also, numbness and tingling in your lower arm might not be carpal tunnel syndrome either. If you do go to the doctor, make sure you accurately describe your symptoms. It could be Thoracic Outlet syndrome- which is actually caused by compression of nerves and blood vessels in the neck, not the arm.
 
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#12
I was never really conscious of the posture issue. I always seem to have my shoulders up and really tense and I'm normally also slouching. If I'm not slouching, I'm learning forward a lot. Trying to fix that for me could potentially be harder than knocking another second off my F2L. :p
 

AndyK

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Edit: AndyK, it's good that there's no permanent damage. Yes, constant stress on your wrists can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. That's one reason it's a good idea to warm up AND cool down. Also, numbness and tingling in your lower arm might not be carpal tunnel syndrome either. If you do go to the doctor, make sure you accurately describe your symptoms. It could be Thoracic Outlet syndrome- which is actually caused by compression of nerves and blood vessels in the neck, not the arm.
Thanks, yeah, it was kinda hairy there for a while.

True, I should specify that the numbness and weakness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome is usually restricted to a median nerve distribution (which is mostly the thenar eminence (muscles of your thumb), index and middle finger). Thoracic outlet syndrome would have a different distribution of symptoms and would likely include shoulder pain and/or circulation issues. Regardless of the cause, I just wanted to point out that if you ever get numbness or weakness in your hand it is a good idea to stop cubing and go see a doctor. Muscle fasciculations associated with numbness or weakness should also be reported to a doctor.

BTW - I wanted to make a post like this for a while, I'm glad someone did.
 
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Timeless, that is another good point. This is why in my original post I said you should warm up with a few easy solves. The good thing to do before exercise is dynamic stretching. It is good to differentiate between static and dynamic stretching.

Yuxuibbs, still sounds like a trigger point to me.
 
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Thanks for this thread,
I sit hunched over at my desk for probably 2 - 3 hours a day. I had no idea about this whole hump back thing. It really opened up my eyes to the problems that can come from sitting at a desk all day and cubing.

Maybe I should start stretching...

(Where in Sask are you from?)
 
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