Newbie – Have I got RSI?

Question:  I have only jus joined this mailing list, but I want to get straight on and ask some questions. I am 16, and have used my computer a lot for a couple of years. I have had problems (over about the last 6 months) with my wrist clicking when I move it. This is mainly my right wrist (the one I use on the mouse). Sometimes it is a little stiff, but that is all. I don’t get pain in it very often, and this is probably only when I have injured it in other ways. I went to see the doctor, but he knew nothing about RSI. So I got myself a wrist rest and haven’t done anything since. Have I got RSI, or one of the related problems? Can anyone give me any advice on what I could be doing to stop it?

Answer 1: I could make a bad joke about teenagers and right hands, but I won’t :-). I’d take this very seriously before it gets bad. I find that mouse use is  the biggest problem for me: try using an alternative pointing device, such as a pen, and swap the mouse to your other hand from time to time.
Get advice on posture and make sure your computer is set up correctly: many home computers are on poor desks with crappy chairs. Posture is all  important. You’ll probably find your computer’s manual has a section on this. As I say, take this seriously but don’t panic. With car, you’ll be able to eliminate or at least control the problem. I’ve had RSI in both arms  for about six years but it doesn’t stop me doing my job if I’m sensible.

Answer 2:  It sounds like your body is letting you know that there is a weakness there. You’re certainly doing the right thing by investigating it now before it gets much worse. You’ve already had one answer about correct posture and this is vital; the pressure on your wrist may be a knock-on effect from higher up in your arm/shoulder. My problems were originating in the shoulder, but I was getting terrible aches in my hand and fingers. I now use a trackball mouse which means less gripping, and moving (I also switched to my left hand). This one is on loan and needs to be returned, so I am going to get my work to order a ‘glidepoint’ mouse so I can test it out.

Answer 3:  I’ve suffered from RSI in my right hand for about 2-3 years. I’m left-handed, so the mouse has always been in that hand. Until recently it wasn’t a problem. When my left wrist started to hurt (after prolonged mouse usage), my company bought me an ALPS GlidePoint. It’s a touch-sensitive pad, you use your finger on to control the mouse.  I tried the GlidePoint for about two and half months, and in the end, decided that the amount of concentration involved (to get the pointer to go exactly where I wanted it) was making me tense up, and not helping the RSI. Now I have a Wacom ArtPad II. This is an electronic tablet (sensitive area is about A6 paper size (a quarter of A4)) with a (cordless) pen. After the first few days of familiarisation – where my shoulder really started to stiffen up and hurt – I now find it’s generally better than a conventional mouse, and tons better than a GlidePoint. Personally I can’t reccomend the GlidePoint, but that might just be me, and the way I work (or my body works!).

Answer 4:  I would try and see a physiotherapist who knows about RSI. The physiotherapist should know about Adverse Neurological Tension (sometimes called Adverse Mechanical Tension) and Trigger points. Now although it does not sound as though you have either of these two conditions, a physiotherapist who knows about them will be better at treating your wrist. (I assume you live in the UK?) Get your GP to refer you to a physiotherapist or contact the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (see the RSI-UK web site for the telephone number, and more details on RSI). Ask the CSP for a physiotherapist who knows about RSI as they are supposed to have a list of those who specialise in it. The CSP will give the contact details for a private physio who you will have to pay to see, but it is only 25-30 ukp for a consultation – worth it if it stops your potential RSI.

Answer 5:  I’m an occupational Health Nurse working in the food industry, but have come across many cases of RSI over the last 20 years in various tasks within those companies. As you may be aware, one of the greatest risks is to be found with keyboard users. Another big problem is the huge increase in the use of home computers. I have a responsibility to ensure our VDU workers do not come to harm whilst at work, but if they then go home and spend several hours on their PC, they are increasing the risk of an RSI developing.
Within industry, we are guided by the Health and safety Executive, who state that to reduce the risk of an RSI developing, you should follow these guidelines: Limit the amount of time spent working with VDU‘s Ensure that your seating and lighting is adequate etc; I agree with you that many GP’s do not understand RSI and do not give appropriate advice. May I refer you to the RSI Association, who now have many local groups throughout the UK, there may be one in your area. Their address is : Chapel House, 152, High Street, Yiewsley, west Drayton, Middlesex.  This is run by people who have RSI and includes a Q&A page. Good luck, but take care of your body which is giving you warnings

Answer 6:  Also take a break from the computer every 15 minutes and do some stretches. A physio will teach you these.

Answer 7:  Great that you found us on the list and wrote in. I’ve got a 16 year old son so I can relate a bit. It doesn’t sound as though you’ve got RSI big time, (if at all) but since you obviously do a fair bit of computing, you have the potential to get it, and so far, we don’t know who will get it and who won’t. It depends on so many things, like your anatomy, lifestyle, how you sit, taking breaks, etc.
Anyway, all I can say is to keep yourself well-informed of RSI causes and treatments, etc. Your generation is the first to grow up with computers … the implications of that for health problems are enormous.  From what I read, there is a lot of information on RSI in UK (I am English myself, but living in Canada). I’d keep on plugging for a doc who knows what RSI is. It doesn’t have to be a doctor, either, there are other therapists like physio, massage and osteopaths who are well-versed in RSI, but you have to dig them out. I believe there is some kind of a RSI treatment centre at Bart’s Hospital, (London) (Dr. Richard Pearson). Could you check that out? Not that it sounds like you need to go there, but they may have some literature to send you, and/or names of doctors/therapists in your area.


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