RSI / Backache Correlation: Comments

Many physios that I have seen would actually say that spinal problems are more likely to cause referred pain in the wrist. Trapped nerves in the spine may well contribute to the problems experienced by RSI sufferers. I would hypothesize that incorrect typing positions etc… are likely to cause spine (and therefore back) problems which lead on to wrist problems, especially when the wrists are misaligned during repetitive work. While RSI means you may lift less, this does not mean that it has a significant reduction in the risk of back problems. Back problems can be caused by many other factors other than lifting heavy loads, including walking, sitting, knocks and turning. It may be that wrist pains appear much earlier than back ache, despite the latter being the causal effect on the former. Just some personal ideas but is does highlight that spinal issues play an important part in RSI. One query though – how do people get a diagnosis about the type of RSI they have? All I’ve had is a letter saying it is likely to be caused by workstation usage?

Comment 1: What you write is plausible, i.e. I cannot see any obvious flaws in that. However, this does not mean that what you write is true (or false). We would have to run an experiment of some kind or to collect some objective data (e.g. from the scientific literature, interviewing a number of patients/doctors/practitioners, etc.). The opinions in my previous message were an attempt to look as objectively as possible at the results of the simple experiment (the questionnaire) I had been running in the attempt to prove or disprove my hypothesis. In my opinion the data suggest very little correlation between RSI and prior backache. However, I might be wrong: there might be other, perhaps more complex explanations for the data I reported. Also, there might be a lot of data out there which show the exact opposite. After all I have only seven cases in my data set. However, in my experience the best explanations tend to be the simplest ones. Also, in most cases the data tell the truth. If one wants to propose a more complex explanation for some data, then that person has to explain, prove experimentally or provide data showing why other simpler explanations cannot be correct.

I am not asking you to do that, of course. I have mentioned the above because I want to stress the fact that we (patients) all see a very small fraction of the whole RSI world. In our own sub-worlds, something may look very plausible and still be completely wrong or something may look totally implausible and still be absolutely true. This is why communication among RSI sufferers is very important. But at the same time we must be very careful to use communication (such as the one provided by this list) well, e.g. avoiding to spread incorrect information and largely unsupported or excessively subjective beliefs. It is difficult, but very beneficial.

I think a good way of doing this is for people in this list to volunteer to gather information on one particular topic (say keyboards, mice, chairs, etc.), and then to summarise it to the list. That information could then remain online somewhere for people to look at leisure. This would be particularly useful for newcomers/new sufferers. This would also have the effect of reducing the traffic and the noise on this mailing list, which sometimes make it difficult for people to discriminate the messages that are important and should be read from those for which one should just hit the Del key. (This issue might not be very important for some people on this list, since perhaps they receive very few messages every day. However, many others, including myself, receive tens of messages every day, so discriminating between signal and noise can be very important.)

Comment 2: I’m afraid the traffic on the list is likely to increase rather than decrease, as it keeps on growing. I sympathise with the problem of email overload — I struggle with it too — but I think it’s important to remember that the list is for support and companionship as well as for information. I’d hate for people to feel they couldn’t post unless they had something “important” to say. I think it’s just down to those of us who get too much email to find a way of dealing with it.

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