Further thoughts on RSI / MSD

In man, before the brain is an instrument for action, it has to be an instrument for preparation.
(Bronowski, The Ascent of Man)

When I am seated, I am NOT in a "position" or "posture": I am offering myself a set of possible movements; this is true whether I move or not. (When I am standing, I offer myself another set of possible movements.) Talk of "positions" can be confusing. The possibilities I offer myself depend on dynamic relationships within me, and may not be visible to the untrained eye. Nevertheless, they are real.

Whatever my apparent "position", I am not static. My general tendency is either towards expansion, or towards becoming rather smaller. The "becoming smaller" will probably involve certain muscular tensions; it will also involve a certain amount of relaxation. If I am becoming smaller, it is likely that both tension and relaxation are misplaced, and that this is due to misunderstandings concerning their nature.

It is simply not true that "tension" is bad and "relaxation" good. We need both, properly distributed, all the time. When there is a proper distribution – one that changes constantly according to the precise demands being placed on the entire organism – the restless desire for relaxation will not be present, because the necessary tension will not be uncomfortable. In fact, there probably will not be much to "feel" in this sense.

Such a blissful condition, unfortunately, is rarely to be found in contemporary western adults. And even more rarely in certain occupations in which the need for overt movement is minimal. This intensifies the need for intelligent preparation to meet the requirements of a given job. You may need to think about things that never interested you before. You may find you can learn things you never before attempted to understand. Why not?

If in your work you feel the risk of some form of musculo-skeletal disorder – e.g. in your hands – there is certainly a problem of how your hands are supported. A chair can support you, in the sense of not dropping you on to the floor. But the real support, that takes care of all your needs, is not to be found in any chair, however well designed, however costly. Real support exists in you, in nature, in the way you use yourself, in the way you understand movement. Movement comprises wishes and decisions. To say that is to say that your thought, your understanding and your physical state are inextricably entwined, moment by moment.

There is no such thing as keeping absolutely still: you are either getting a tiny bit bigger, or a tiny bit smaller, all over. If your idea of "sitting still" means you are shrinking, if your idea of a chair is something you collapse into, no chair will be comfortable for long. Please note that I don't advise making huge efforts to "sit up straight". Sitting, when it is well done, should not be tiring! Like other skills, it can be taught, and you can learn it, if you like.

Elizabeth Langford, 2002