Backache – RSI correlation ?

Question: I believe I suffer from the diffuse form of RSI. I had the first symptoms about one year and a half ago. About three years ago I started having backache (presumably due to a prolapsed disc). The advice I was given (among other things) was not to lift heavy stuff or do heavy work at home or in the garden. Which I did.  I know another person with a similar history, and I have seen two or three messages on this list mentioning backache (and RSI, of course) in the three months I’ve been in it.

I am not a doctor, but I am a scientist, and so I could not avoid noticing some correlation between backache and RSI in the (small) data sample I had.  It is possible that avoiding lifting weights might be a contributing factor for RSI (by reducing the strength in the arms and hands), it might also be that people who sit for long hours typing are more prone to getting both backache and RSI, or it might even be that the correlation between backache and RSI is inexistent.

So, I was wondering how many people on this list happened to suffer from backache and RSI together, how many of these happened to get backache before RSI, and how many of these ones were told not to lift heavy stuff by their doctors.   IF YOU SUFFER FROM BACKACHE AND RSI, could you e-mail the following information to me (please do not copy the message to the whole list, I will summarize the results of this survey in a few days):

1. How long ago did you get RSI?  2. What form of RSI?
3. How long ago did you get backache?
4. Did you stop/decreased lifting heavy stuff after you got backache?
5. If so, did you do this following your doctors advice?

Answer: I think that you are absolutely right when you say that you suspect a correlation between RSI and backache. My own RSI started in my hand and arms, but it improved and I was pain free for a couple of years afterwards. Then all of a sudden after a day of long period of keyboard use it came right back but also affected my mid back. It then progressed and affected my neck and lower back as well, and it does to this day. Poor posture is almost certainly one of the main contributing factors in getting RSI, or at least diffuse RSI.

When you look in a room of computer users there are usually many people sitting in a slumped fashion; i.e. the chest and shoulders forward and the chin forward and up – like a turkey 🙂 And many people are like that all of the time, myself included, as the muscles have re-adjusted themselves. Sometimes pain also encourages poor use. If you get pain in the hands then you tend to use the shoulders to lift things to compensate, and this is where poor use patterns develop into habit.

I have re-educated myself now in this respect and it is improving my back and hand problems, albeit very slowly.The trouble with having excess curvature in the spine is it puts extra strain and pressure on the nerves, probably dramatically increasing the chances of some kind of nerve dysfunction. This is where back and RSI problems probably correlate. Between the shoulders blades is very tight for me and this is an area in which the sympathetic nervous system is very influential. Someone with better medical knowledge may be able to expand on this further.

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