Harvard RSI Action
(click to go to home page)
Harvard Resources
Taubman Techniques
Tai Chi
Alexander Technique/Feldenkrais Method
Other Resources

Harvard Resources

University Health Services
UHS is certainly one of the most useful resources at Harvard. See the section about severe sufferers for hints on dealing with UHS.

Student Disabilities Resources
This office (496-8707, fax: 495-0815, sdr@fas.harvard.edu) provides several important services to registered students. To register with SDR, make sure that when you see your doctor at UHS you request that they fill out the SDR referral form and fax it to the office. If you see someone outside UHS, make sure that your doctor sends a note (on letterhead) to SDR with the following information: diagnosis, level of activity currently permissible, and anticipated duration of current condition. Be aware that even if your physician says your RSI can last for several months, SDR will need updated documentation in order to continue to provide accommodations and/or services. Louise Russell is the director of SDR, but you'll probably talk to either Mary Megson or Katherine Callaghan when you call. If you need to leave a voice message, you should be very specific about what you are calling about. If you need help with typing, talk to the office about arranging to hire a typist. Currently, you must find someone to do the typing, but SDR will pay for it (there may be a time limit on how long they will pay). If you register with SDR you will be able to use the dictation software provided by the Adaptive Technology Laboratory (ATL) in the Science Center, to which SDR will refer you. Note that while the office can arrange scribes for final exams, they do not arrange or pay for scribes for midterms. Therefore, make sure you talk to your professors weeks in advance about finding scribes if you need them. Check the SEO miscellaneous section for midterm scribes.

Student Employment Office
The Student Disabilities Resource Center may pay for a work study typist, but you'll have to find them yourself. Or, you may need to find scribes to write your midterms. Try the Student Employment Office (495-2585); you can either create a listing specific to your needs, or just look at their list of typists. They also have a miscellaneous section. Note that all SEO functions can be done by phone, so if your hands hurt, call them, don't type.

Adaptive Technology Laboratory
You can get a referral from the SDR to the Adaptive Technology Lab. This lab provides computer equipment and software, including Dragon NaturallySpeaking dictation software, text to Braille, and other services to help accommodate students with a number of different disabilities. The staff of the ATL provide training to teach you to use the software most effectively. They are also extremely friendly, and an excellent source of advice on technological solutions to your problems. Before you can use the ATL, you must be referred to them by the SDR. Working in the ATL are Emily at dotton@fas.harvard.edu and Claudia at cmastr@fas.harvard.edu. The ATL's number is 496-8800.

Environmental Health and Safety
EH&S (495-2060) provides free evaluations of your workstation or office setup. They can give you a list of things you need to correct, which can be helpful in convincing your department or adviser to get them for you.

Harvard Health and Fitness
HHF (495-1771) is primarily for faculty and staff. However, they sometimes have fitness classes which may be of interest, and which are open to students on a space-available basis. Many of these classes are of interest to people with an interest in alternative cures to RSI, such as Feldenkrais or Yoga classes.

Taubman Techniques

Many pianists who have RSIs have found Taubman techniques extremely helpful in allowing them to play the piano again. This is especially important because pianists so often develop RSIs. Non-pianists with RSI can also benefit greatly from Taubman techniques; amazingly, a Taubman seminar for computer workers with RSI helped the majority of them return to work! Taubman techniques are equally applicable to typing as they are to piano. The Taubman Institute is a summer institute at Williams College that teaches their techniques. More information is available at: http://www.taubman-institute.com/


Since many repetitive strain injuries are diagnosed as soft-tissue injuries, treatments that focus on those tissues can be helpful. The RSI Action Group does not recommend any one particular massage therapist for this task, but Arun Jaine of Integrative Body Therapies (424-0255) is a practitioner in the area who is familiar with repetitive strain injuries. Ask about student rates. You can also get some less expensive massages at student clinics in the area.


A somewhat controversial field in medicine that has provided significant benefit to those with RSI. It is a structural form of treatment that focuses on improving bone alignment and mobility. Osteopaths have a medical education equivalent to MDs, and as a result are lawfully able to prescribe medications and even perform surgery. Sessions with an osteopath are highly tailored to the individual patient, and also vary greatly with the practicioner; most, however, make use of subtle forms of bone and muscle manipulation intended to free up restricted areas. From the patient perspective, osteopathy involves less patient involvement than other forms of therapy described below, but personal experiences have been highly positive nonetheless. However, given the major role of the practitioner in this form of treatment, success with osteopathy seems to have a lot to do with how carefully you choose your doctor.
One last, gigantic plus for this form of treatment: Osteopathic visits are covered under most health insurance plans! If your insurance refuses to pay, however, rates can be prohibitive: they often approach the rates of regular doctors.
The following is a list of highly recommended osteopaths in the area, who may also be able to recommend others closer by:

  • Edgar S. Miller, DO. 49 Red Pine Dr Carlisle, MA (978)369-6030 (Not sure if this is a business or home phone!?) Very highly recommended.
  • James H. Gronemeyer, DO. 290 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington MA 02174. (781) 646-7790.
  • B. Jayne Alexander, DO. (508) 697-3185.


Acupuncture seeks whole body healing based on Chinese medicine. Yes, it involves needles. No, it’s not too painful. Some say that success is highly dependent on the practitioner. There are student clinics in the Boston area for the student budget (individual sessions cost approximately $15-$20).

Tai Chi

The Harvard Tai Chi Tiger Crane Club has free classes in Tai Chi. Visit their webpage at http://hcs.harvard.edu/~htctc. The club is very aware of the Harvard RSI community and has several techniques designed to help people with RSIs.

Alexander Technique/Feldenkrais Method

These are methods that incorporate and combine many structural and mindbody elements. Both methods involve significant levels of subject involvement and offer a means to guided self-improvement. The teacher acts to foster improvement, but ultimately the learning process has to be self-motivated. Lessons usually consist of a combination of hands-on bodywork and verbal teaching to develop self-awareness of one’s body through movement. Through application of the technique, the student learns to integrate physical and mental aspects of the body in a highly conscious way. For RSI sufferers, this can offer a means of taking control of a situation that might otherwise seem hopeless.
The following is excerpted from a web page of one of the national organizations of Alexander teachers, now called AmSAT:

"F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) demonstrated that the difficulties many people experience in learning, in control of performance, and in physical functioning are caused by unconscious habits. These habits interfere with your natural poise and your capacity to learn. When you stop interfering with the innate coordination of the body, you can take on more complex activities with greater self-confidence and presence of mind.

The Alexander Technique provides a concrete means for overcoming these impeding habits, and for helping people learn better and do things more freely -- from learning to play a musical instrument better to moving with more comfort and ease through your daily life. From back pain to learning blocks, whether you are a musician or an office worker, Alexander lessons remain fundamentally the same: You are guided through simple movements and learn to develop more control in your activities.

The Alexander Technique, however, is not a therapy that treats a passive patient. It is for the person interested in working towards his or her goals with increased awareness and practical intelligence. Although the Alexander Technique does not treat specific symptoms, you can encourage a marked improvement in overall health, alertness, and performance by consciously eliminating harmful habits that cause physical and emotional stress, and by becoming more aware of how you engage in your activities. American educational philosopher John Dewey, Nobel-prize-winning scientist Nikolaas Tinbergen, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, and many others have recognized the Alexander Technique as an effective aid in improving physical and psychological well-being."

More information can be found on the comprehensive website http://www.alexandertechnique.com. The site includes numerous links to the different associations of Alexander teachers that will help locate a teacher near you. We're fortunate in Boston to have one of the largest Alexander teaching communities in the world. There are several teachers in the direct vicinity of Harvard Square. In addition, the Alexander Technique Center, located up Mass Ave from Harvard towards Porter Square, may have information regarding affordable group classes (1692 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd floor, 617-497-2242). A good description of the Feldenkrais® Method can be found at http://www.wellspace.com/offerings/feldenkrais.html.


  • Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael Gelb (1996). An excellent general introduction to the Alexander Technique. Covers the basic concepts of the technique and its history, and gives a number of specific applications.
  • Freedom to Change - The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique by Frank Pierce Jones (1997). This Alexander classic was originally published as Body Awareness in Action in 1976 [available in the Loeb Music Library under this latter title: call # MUS 343.1]. An excellent introduction to the Technique that discusses both its history and Jones' extensive 25 years of research on the subject at nearby Tufts University.
  • The Use of the Self by F.M. Alexander – the best and clearest book written by the man who created the technique, this autobiographical account traces Alexander’s ‘discovery’ and offers a unique perspective on the work. Though not always highly readable, it is nonetheless fascinating for its personal insights into this process of self-improvement [available in Widener library: Phil 6110.3.10].

Unfortunately, the Alexander technique can be pricey: private lessons range from $40 to $80 an hour! Although we don't currently have much experience with it, Feldenkrais seems to tend to be more high profile, trendy, and hence even more expensive! Group lessons are available in both methods, however, with a significant reduction in cost (see above).


Yoga offers a means of exercise and stretching as a means to increasing whole body awareness. Most Yoga teachers focus on breathing as a unifying and integrative body mechanism. The emphasis of each yoga class varies widely with the instructor and the particular form of yoga being taught. Some yoga classes have a more spiritual emphasis, while others (proliferating rapidly these days) seem like aerobic classes in disguise (e.g. "Power Yoga").

For RSI sufferers, though, yoga can provide an opportunity to exercise in a way that is surprisingly pain-free. Many people with RSI who have tried yoga comment that it allows one to do things that normally cause a good deal of pain otherwise. It’s also very affordable, here: $5 a semester at the MAC (495-2219)! Or, you can find classes at the Center for Wellness and Health Communications (495-9629, see above).


Coming Soon!

Other Resources

CNOT, the Coalition on New Office Technology, 650 Beacon St., 5th Floor, Boston in Kenmore Square, 617-247-6827 is a great resource. You can check out the CNOT home page, http://www.rsiaction.org/. While most of their members are in Massachusetts, they are a national resource. They run various seminars and maintain a referral book with reviews of various doctors related to RSI. If you need to find a good doctor, or you want to check on a referral, or you have a good or bad experience with a doctor, give CNOT a call. Out of the same office is the Office Technology Education Project, with the same phone number. Finally, in this one space, there is RSI Action, (an unaffiliated inspiration for Harvard RSI Action), which works on issues of RSI in the UniveRSIty, across universities in the Boston area, and in general on RSI prevention and advocacy for workplace and legislative changes.

It is commonly accepted that bodily exercise is important in keeping one’s intellectual and physical capabilities functioning at their full potential. In the busy daily lives of students, taking the time to exercise can be quite difficult. However, the benefits of regular exercise are highly worthwhile.
Oftentimes people with RSI, especially those who have no clinically diagnosable medical condition, will be under a pattern of minimizing use of their upper extremity because of the fear of causing further pain. In our experience, physical immobilization can sometimes even exacerbate this problem, by drawing more negative attention to the dulled out limb and reinforcing the notion that it is "useless."
Whole body exercise can therefore be very helpful in managing this condition. Not only does exercise stimulate healing by invigorating damaged muscles through increased blood flow and oxygenation, but it can also have the equally (if not more) important psychological effect of removing excessive concern over the effected region. It can allow the mind greater comfort in knowing that the affected limb is fully functional. All forms of vascular exercise are helpful (running, swimming, playing sports, biking, aerobics, etc), but swimming in particular can be very helpful for people with RSI because of the way it allows you to set your own pace in a very non-aggressive, low-impact environment. However, everyone will have his or her own exercise preferences and what is important is taking the opportunity to do it regularly.

The OSHA web page is the best place to start for scientific or statistical documentation on RSI. You can find information on the Draft Proposed Ergonomics Program Standard. The section on the scientific basis offers an impressive bibliography of RSI information.

Boston Voice Users Group
Boston Voice Users Group A local voice-users group exists in the Boston area. Meetings are currently on second Tuesday of each month, at MIT, location announced on their mailing list. See upcoming events section. Users or potential users of all kinds of dictation software are welcome, though the first dozen or so all seem to be Dragon people.

There is a local, low-volume mailing list for meeting arrangements. It's at boston-voice-users@harvee.billerica.ma.us. To subscribe, send an empty message to: boston-voice-users-request@harvee.billerica.ma.us, with subject line SUBSCRIBE.

Meeting announcements for those who need phone contact are being coordinated by Mary Hopkins, (h) 666-2517.

The sorehand mailing list
The sorehand mailing list is a high volume, high noise general mailing list for sufferers of RSI. If you want to be on a mailing list about RSI, this is the main one. I strongly urge you to use the digest option if you subscribe, lest you be completely overwhelmed. To subscribe, send mail to LISTSERV@ITSSRV1.UCSF.EDU with any subject, and the message body reading:

subscribe sorehand Your Name

To unsubscribe, send the message

unsubscribe sorehand

to the same address.

To get the mail in digest form, send the message

set sorehand digest

Job Accomadation Network
Job Accomadation Network http://janweb.icdi.wvu.edu A toll-free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities. JAN also provides information regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's a service of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Accomodation info: 1-800-526-7234 in US live line 8-8 Eastern M-TH; ADA info: 1-800-ADA-WORK 8-5 Fri, machine after hours fax (304) 293-5407 email re ADA: jan@jan.icdi.wvu.edu

Repetitive Strain Injury: a Computer User's Guide, by Pascarelli and Quilter, is a comprehensive source of information on how to live with and recover from RSI. It is usually available at Wordsworth's. There are also one or two copies in the Harvard library. If you have any problems, you should definitely read it, and if your problems are serious, you should definitely buy it.

MIT's Adaptive Technology for Information and Computing lab maintains a web page http://web.mit.edu/atic/www/rsi/mitrsi.htm with useful information and links.

If you want more information on prevention, a really good place to look is Paul Marxhausen's RSI page at http://www.engr.unl.edu/eeshop/rsi.html with even more pictures and even some mpeg videos. There are also references to good books on prevention, including easy links to on line book stores so you can order them right now.

The The Typing Injury FAQ http://www.tifaq.org is a gold mine of information. If you are looking for information about ergonomic devices, these archives are a good place to start.

IBM's Healthy Computing website (http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/healthycomputing/) is an excellent and comprehensive guide to computer ergonomics.

Amara's RSI Page http://www.amara.com/aboutme/rsi.html contains prevention and background information on RSI.

The Hand Book by Stephanie Brown, is a good book on how to type (if you can type at all!). It's going through revision and not available until about February or March 1997, but there is a copy on reserve in Baker Library.

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