Relation between RSI and Writing

Question: I am a new member of this emailing list. I have been undergoing intensive physiotherapy for the past 4 months for computer related RSI. Could someone with a similar ailment kindly tell me how badly my writing work would be affected due to this problem in the future? At the moment I am unable to write even for 15 minutes. Does writing become a long term problem for computer related RSI sufferers or is it only a temporary phenomenon. I will be shifting to Crouch end Broadway (N8) and would be grateful if someone could recommend a good RSI physiotherapist in and around that area.

Answer 1: By ‘writing’, do you mean writing longhand using a pen or pencil, or writing as in using a computer or word processor to write fiction, journalism or something similar. I’m a novelist and web designer who uses computers for both, and I am becoming resigned to the fact that RSI is something that is always going to impact on my work. My hope is to simply control it at its present level and prevent deterioration. My physio says it’s unlikely the problems will ever go away completely if I continue to use the computer for several hours a day. Sorry, can’t recommend my physio to you, even though she’d excellent, because I live in Yorkshire. All the best.

Answer 2: I’m a new member of the group, so if this has been heard before…. I would imagine that if you are novel/article writing on a PC then voice recognition is the way to go. It’s pretty good now, and you would probably be able to talk faster than you can type!! It’s a bit more difficult for me as I write computer software, which doesn’t really lend itself to voice recognition, although I do know of one person who uses recognition in a technical environment – but his RSI is so bad he has no other option.

Answer 3: It’s quite common. One person I know couldn’t write a cheque at the worst (but she’s much better now, can probably manage a few sides *per day*). In the long term you will probably come to prefer much fatter and gripper pens. Or adding pen grips or homemade solutions like rubber bands, hair rollers… With me, writing (pen) and typing (keyboard) still have to be rationed. My writing is appalling. If I was more organised I would carry some sticky labels with my name and address for form filling. Normally I say to the man in the shop “you do it”. This is after 3 years after recognising that I had a problem. I use voice recognition software, but that’s a mental challenge in itself. Ironically, one way of improving dictation with a computer is to structure the piece beforehand, on pen and paper. It is said that the ability to think and dictate simultaneously improves with practice.

Answer 4: Yes, voice recognition would *seem* to be the obvious answer… but speaking as a fiction writer, I can say it isn’t. At least not in my case. I don’t *hear* my work, and if I try to speak it, it just disappears from my mind like mist. I’ve tried dictation any number of times and I get nowhere. The fiction writing process is a sort of virtually instantaneous feedback between brain, fingers and screen. At least it is for me. I may try VR for note making, planning, synopses etc, when I get a new computer (mine isn’t of a high enough specification at the moment) but I can’t ever foresee me writing the actual text of my novels using it. The one way I might do it would be to write in longhand, then dictate from that into the VR program… but then it’d be just my luck to get writer’s cramp! Isn’t RSI a bitch?

Answer 5: If you have decent handwriting then you may be able to scan and OCR any longhand notes – saves all that tedious dictation after the event. Just for the record, whilst at my physio for a problem with tennis elbow (from playing tennis!!), he said I was starting to get CTS in my right hand, not yet in my left. At the moment it’s not too bad – slight tingling during stretching, occasional grip trouble etc. I have moved the mouse to the left hand side as he said that is probably the reason for the CTS only in the right hand, and he has given me a number of exercises to do. Is there any web information on stretching and other exercises to help with CTS?

Answer 6: On developing RSI in my right hand I shifted my computer mouse to my left hand. It took only a fortnight for RSI to develop in my perfectly healthy left hand. If you are not left handed it might help to take extreme precaution when substituting your left hand for the activities carried out by your right side. You should always err on the side of caution. At work I switched to left hand mouse on one of my machines (the one I use most), and right-hand mouse use on the other, and my left arm has still not suffered any symptoms. Take caution… but you should still try it. First tinges of pain… and stop. No point in adding new pressure points! But it is a strange skill to show left handed friends… to be able to use a mouse in either hand. My left hand picked up speed rapidly.

Answer 7: I have had problems with RSI for a number of years and was unsuccessful in my claim with my employers, as I could not prove it medically. My job has now been changed, unfortunately to less typing but more numeric pad work on the keyboard and taking minutes for meetings. I have found that through RSI I am unable to write, for very long as my hand seems to freeze up. The minutes I take are proving very difficult to cope with and I am not sure how long I will be able to do them. Most of my correspondence at home is now done on the computer as my writing is now becoming more and more eligible. This is the problem I have been having with my RSI. Good luck.

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