Question: After suffering various pains (sharp and stiff / aching) in the fingers of both hands for almost 5 years I have just received a diagnosis from my employer’s medical assessor of “Muscular Cramps in the hand and Forearm”. I’d normally welcome any diagnosis but am suspicious of this one for several reasons and would be grateful of some advice:
The assessment was very rushed, he was clearly impatient and abrupt and I got the distinct impression he was trying to disprove any form of RSI rather than provide a thorough and honest assessment of my condition. The report is also written in a rather negative way towards me, with many comments that have been phrased to imply things are not as bad as they are, or that somehow I use my hands more at home than I do all day at work with the computer.
I’m also concerned that neither my GP nor consultant rheumatologists have mentioned this condition, nor have I heard about it before. I’ve so far seen a rheumatologist and had Hand x-rays, blood tests, and a bone scan, and nerve conduction studies, all of which were normal (as they probably would be for all of us).
Some of my symptoms (swelling of the fingers, heat, sharp pains along some of the tendon paths in the palm and stabbing pains in the knuckles etc) do not seem to correspond to this condition at all.
The assessor has also stated that “it is not repetitive strain injury” and “would not give protection under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995″. He also implied I might be anxious about it (indeed a lot of the assessment was given over to my domestic circumstances and how I was feeling). Apart from getting irritated of being in pain everyday and of assessors that have clearly made up their minds before you enter the room, life is great!
(I’m also fortunate in working for a decent employer with regards to recognizing my problems and genuinely trying to help), although I think we’re all getting fed up with it to some extent.
QUESTIONS: I need to know if this is a real condition and if its genuinely possible that I have it. Has anyone heard of it? Is it covered by the DDA (from my understanding of the definition at section 1(1) it clearly is covered). Should I see my GP again or would another specialist be more appropriate? Are there details on the web anywhere? (I’ve looked quite a bit but can’t find any).
Answer 1: Yes. This assessor can’t remove you from the protection offered by the DDA (such as it is) simply by calling the condition by a particular name. It’s whether you’re affected by the problem that matters. You could ask the Disability Rights Commission for advice. Their website is at http://www.drc-gb.org/ tel 08457 622 633. Be sure to explain who you work for in case they are exempt from the DDA provisions. I would think it would be a good idea to see your GP and see what s/he thinks of the assessor’s opinion.
Answer 2: Cramp of the hand or forearm is a prescribed industrial disease (A4) having been included in the list since 1948 by the Dept of Health & Social Security for the purpose of industrial injuries benefit. In leaflet N12 issued by the DHSS in 1983 it is described as “Cramp of the hand or forearm due to the repetitive movements e.g. Writers cramp. Type of occupations includes any occupation involving prolonged periods of handwriting typing or other repetitive movements of the fingers hand or arm e.g. typists, clerks or routine assemblers.”