RSI in the family

Question: My sister has been doing lots of typing for me so I can finish my degree and has recently started to get what seem to be RSI-type pains (despite ergonomic awareness and lots of breaks). I recently met someone with RSI whose son also had it and I remember somebody on the list mentioning that their sister had it too – do people think there could be some sort of family susceptibility?  Due to RSI this message has probably been written using voice recognition software. Please ignore any dictation errors I failed to notice.

Answer 1: Some medical / psychical factors (eg fluid retention, diabetes) influence the risk of getting RSI. These could partly be genetic. Other factors, the way one sits, moves, exercises, attention to body signals, etc., may very well be influenced by one’s youth / family.

Answer 2: I know my dad has had lots of problems with tennis elbow in the past, and my mum has suffered with shoulder and elbow problems – so it’s quite possible…

Answer 3: Maybe. My brother and mother both have had chronic pain problems which may be linked.

Answer 4: I never really thought about this until this message but now I think there could be: I am “still recovering” from RSI through computer use. My mother several years ago had a “frozen shoulder” type problem probably brought on by piano playing. Both my sisters have had arm/wrist problems – one through working as a dentist, and one with heavier work through working with horses. Yikes – I think there could be a pattern there!!

Answer 5: Some years ago my mother had a “frozen shoulder” caused by over-use of an old-fashioned sewing machine; I have RSI caused by overwork i.e. too much computing (marking essays now vies with that as I didn’t “recover”, though maybe I would have if I’d been off work longer. I doubt RSI is hereditary. I suspect an awful lot of people have to work too hard.

Answer 6: There may well be a genetic tendency to these sort of injuries. My mother has suffered from frozen shoulder for 20 years. However, she spent several years using a pricing machine in a supermarket and believes that caused her problems. The danger with saying it is genetic, is that it puts the blame back on the person. This gives organisations who have failed to ensure the health and safety of their employees, a convenient get out. Another question-are there any figures (official or not) on how many people have RSI in all its forms? Yesterday, I was on a bus trip where I was 1 of 3 people with RSI. If that percentage reflects the whole UK, it means that 3 million people have it (equal to the population of Wales)! That’s a lot
of people.

Answer 7: I don’t think we should turn a blind eye to the possibility of a genetic factor. The more we understand about the causes, the better we’ll be able to deal with it, or avoid it altogether. We need to know whether good H&S practice is enough to counter any genetic predisposition. If it isn’t, we need to find out whether it can be extended enough to protect those at risk, or whether those at risk would be better off being advised to avoid certain occupations. I don’t think employers would be able to evade their legal responsibilities on the grounds that someone was genetically vulnerable. They might be able to slough off some of the moral responsibility, but then those who are inclined to do that will never have any problem finding a justification.


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