Paranoia or cautious?

Question: Am I being paranoid? Too protective? My husband has gone back after 4 weeks resting and the Occ. Health person has said that he CAN type 10 mins at a time then task switch to do something else for 10, then type, then rest etc. He can have a new ergonomic keyboard and mouse but she doesn’t think (unlike our physio) that he needs voice recognition, she is convinced she can fully rehabilitate him back to normal and also as it would be too disruptive for the rest of the office. From the experiences of you guys, is this adequate? Am I just being oversensitive it seems like typing IS the problem so how can it form part of the cure? We are going to see the physio tomorrow afternoon and will get his opinion but so far the info HERE has been far more relevant and helpful!

Answer 1: Oh please be careful! It’s that phrase “too disruptive to the rest of the office” that sets me on edge. I moved into an established group with my voice software…I felt a bit embarrassed at first, but now everyone says they can “switch me off” and don’t notice me. I tried an ergonomic keyboard (it helped the pain a little, but I was effectively continuing the damage instead of resting so in the long term ended up worse)… Make sure you get to try lots of types and perhaps try a touchpad rather than a mouse (I love mine).

Answer 2: Absolutely not! It’s all too easy for non-sufferers to ignore the combined meffects of typing IN ADDITION TO all of the other repetitive actions we consider “normal” during a day at work. It is better if there are various ways of typing, not ONLY the taking of breaks. I’d be very wary of accepting only what the Occ H person states, although I obviously haven’t seen, examined your husband as that person has. I would back the physio, and the experience of the many sufferers I know. As Jenny stated, it’s easy to “turn off” any voice-rec sounds, once used to them. A typical office won’t have only your husband’s voice throughout. Does no one else talk on the telephone, to others?…

Answer 3: Going from doing no typing at all to typing for 50% of the time is a very big jump. The most to start with, I would have thought is 5 mins typing then 25 mins off, 5 mins typing etc. He can always build up to more quite easily, it is harder if he over does things. If he starts to get any pain then stop immediately, and reduce the amount of typing, starting again the next day. Basically he has to do what is called ‘pacing’ – starting off doing a very small amount often and slowly build it up. Discuss it with the physio. He will have to change his old working practices otherwise the RSI will just re-occur. Definitely get voice recognition if you can, the rest of the staff will have to get used to it. Its not that much louder than a phone conversation anyway.

Answer 4: Whereas I’m keeping the RSI to a manageable level with an ergonomic keyboard and a trackball… start carefully, don’t ignore warning signs.

Answer 5: It was difficult enough for me to realise, after I was injured, how many things I did besides typing that hurt my hands and wrists: sorting papers, sometimes even reading: all of that was quite an unpleasant surprise, though I’d been through the acute pain stage and knew how bad that could be. The breaks have to be able to be positive breaks. It is a bit difficult to know but here certainly a man who has recently had RSI diagnosed has been helped most by a physio. – a specially trained one. Susan Fulton works in an office full of other people too. The open plan offices I know have people talking to each other, or walking through, or talking on the phone, the whole time. The sound of voice software really is much more containable than things like that. The problem about rehabilitating back to normal is — sorry to cause you concern — that it might then be too late. I went back to work, recovered fully, the doctors thought (and I thought so too) and typed, and my hands started hurting again… It then took me a while to find out about voice software, and then, to get hold of it – all of that would be easier now – the meanwhile, my hands got worse… — I am used to it though I go through the usual lows, but I would like to do what I can to make sure other people get the right equipment in good time. I am afraid the answer as to whether typing IS the problem is not that simple, and much depends on the exact diagnosis, but, I think everyone here wants you to err on the side of caution (your “paranoia”!) rather than let your husband take risks.

Answer 6: More “paranoia”: there have been cases of people straining their vocal chords through intensive use of voice recognition systems. So start cautiously with that, too!

Answer 7: I would entirely agree with the approach about timings. Pacing is going to be key, and with well-constructed pacing (which the occup. health person might or might not know, this sounds a bit crude to me) your husband may well be able to gradually, very gradually indeed, get back to typing. But the idea that this can happen using a sort of ‘some minutes off, some minutes on’ pattern, in a matter of days or weeks, is unrealistic in my view. Personally, I think it would be better for a while to avoid the keyboard altogether, and to get voice recognition and get going with that, and then at the same time begin the pacing and building up regime from a very low base. This base should be used for the re-training process and not be regarded as a way of achieving any substantial work product. With voice recognition, you can use the hands to short-cut some otherwise cumbersome things, or do corrections, so you can do a little bit of rehab towards typing again in conjunction with voice recognition. But because you’re not dependent on typing to acheive work, a huge amount of the psychological pressure goes away. That in itself is a big help. At the same time, doing yoga or some kind of postural re-training such as Pilates or Alexander is also very important as part of tackling underlying things which have contributed to him suffering from the prob in the first place. Pacing alone, or pacing and physio, are unlikely to solve the problem. Probably you know this already.

Answer 8: I would agree with that “paranoia”. Make sure you take it easy with voice recognition too, plenty of breaks and keep drinking water (not coffee) to keep everything hydrated. If you start to get sore throats or feel your voice is strained make sure you consult a speech therapist!

Answer 9: I would just like to add that in my experience this will be the best time to have the injury taken seriously ie. it has just happened and he has been off work (therefore visibly not well) and if occ health are involved then also he is tackling the issue well (even if they do sound as if they were little help). Therefore NOW is the time to recover most. If it ever flares up again to levels similar to that that he has recently experienced, it is unlikely that there will be as much help and sympathy available. What I mean is, it is difficult to keep going off every so often when for some months he is untroubled. If he is still in any pain please make sure he doesn’t ignore it at all when he returns to work – it is a sign that he is not mended enough and needs more rest. I wish I had been fully (or more) mended before I threw myself back into over doing it. These days I try to judge my need for rest that if I hurt at all before lunch time then I should not be doing anythin  at all for a week. However, later on in the injury it is harder to go off sick again and agian – it then looks less like a one off injury that you have under control but more like a recurrent problem that is likely to be nuisance. However it is good to get back to work only if it is not maintaining or worsening injury – guage it by pain and watch out for pain killers allowing the pain to be hidden. About the occ health people – I think they are hugely variable. We had someone come and laugh at our workstations and is sending an expert to fix them. Meanwhile one of my colleagues with severe (and medically recognised) RSI then was told in her occ health appointment that typing should cause her no problems. My occ health appt a couple of years ago was very supportive despite my injury being far less recognised and accepted… Maybe ask to see someone else in the dept – he could just have been unlucky.


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