Question: My name is Roger I am a 39 year old Window cleaner. I have been in this job for the last ten years, in the last seven years I have experienced RSI. I mainly suffer with my elbows, but I have hand, wrist and arm problems as well. I read a lot of mail and articles regarding that it is mainly computer operators that suffer this condition. Well my job is one of repetitive movements of the arms and I have shown all the classic symptoms of RSI, (muscle weakness and painful Joint problems in the arms, and tingling and pins and needles. I have always kept myself fit but now I can no longer play squash or any racquet games, and some minor chores are now becoming difficult mainly anything to do with gripping, I find that after waking up in the morning is the worst time stiffness and pain abound. I wonder how many other occupations have these problems, but the media seems obsessed with the poor office workers, (No offence to office staff).
Answer 1: Not only is window-cleaning repetitive motion, but there is another thing it has in common with computers (I think – correct me if I’m wrong), and that’s awkward neck usage. It seems to me that in cleaning a window you would often have your neck craned back — perhaps habitually at the same angles. With computers, awkward neck angles are often involved if the screen is not in the right position. Your mention of pain in the elbows made me think of this. There’s a definite link between pain in the elbows and problems in the neck and back. (Don’t ask me to explain it, because after four years I still can’t, but someone more competent may be along any minute)
If you haven’t been to your GP yet, please do. S/he might not be skeptical — it’s only in the last ten years or so that musculoskeletal problems have come to be associated with computers. It’s well known that other jobs can cause similar problems, even though nowadays that doesn’t get much attention. A very familiar sequence. You really need to see your doctor first of all. You might also want to join the RSI Association. They have a helpline on 01895 – 431134, Mon – Fri 11.30 to 4pm. The RSIA information pack is very good. Well, give the media credit, they are trying to broaden their horizons. I had an email from a tabloid journo a couple of weeks ago, demanding to know ***URGENTLY*** if I could find her a child with RSI from yo-yoing….
Answer 2: A lot of other people get this. In the nineteenth century manual workers who did repetitive jobs got it; some assembly-line workers get it; and so on. The problem with the media obsession with “office workers” is that danger to other people gets obscured. I suppose too it might be more difficult for someone who does a different kind of job to get diagnosed, or perhaps, to realise they need a diagnosis. (It’s insulting, too, I know. I was thinking of the practical effects.)
Answer 3: I have visited the Doctors on many occasions. I have had 3 cortico steroid injections in Right Elbow, has improved but never as strong as it once was. The neck condition is interesting, I had a neck X-Ray last year due to a creaking noise when I turn my neck, results [slight arthritis due to wear in neck joints]. I must also comment that I get a lot of creaking in my joints now is this a symptom of RSI? The only thing about my visits to the Doctors was when I reported the other symptoms, muscle weakness, tired arms that seemed heavy, and fasciculation of the muscles in my arms, they seemed to put it down to all in the mind. The only test I was asked to do was push and grip the Doctors hands, when I did that he said No problem there, years of weight training still seems to give me a strong grip, but as I told him it is when your arms are above objects, i.e. pull a plate from the top shelve of a cupboard. Well take a few weeks off, it’s over use was the reply. Are the above symptoms common in RSI? Any comments, please.
Answer 4: You’re not alone. Now there are 2 of us, (unless any more wish to declare themselves?) that are non-office injured. I was injured in a factory after being forced to do a hazardous job after I had warned my bosses that it could cause me injury. They forced me to continue, until I couldn’t feed myself, wash, or do anything. I was as helpless as a baby, 3½ years ago. Normal generalised movements now hurt me more than anything. I always wonder about all the typing-related people, and how they get on with normal tasks? OK, typing gives you trouble because many of you are still trying to work, but how do you get on with washing-up, shaving, cleaning your teeth, having a bath and other simple tasks??? Are you typing people able to do these “normal” tasks with no trouble? I can do anything basically as long as it doesn’t last more than 15-30 minutes depending on what it is, which then leads to total shut-down of arms, when I can’t even turn the pages of a book, unless I force myself, which then leads to me feeling physically sick. I am also basically the same age as you, being nearly 39, and was injured at 35. I have never worked since, and am now unemployable.
Answer 5: The weakness in the muscles could be due to trigger points (myofascial pain) and Adverse Neurological Tension (ANT). The tingling and pins and needles is a nerve ‘thing’ and again could be due to Adverse Neurological Tension. See the RSI-UK web site and the RSI-UK archive for previous postings and articles on ANT and trigger points. To get treatment/diagnosis of these conditions find a physio who has treated RSI – ask about ANT, they may also know about trigger points. Chiropractors may also know about trigger points. Always give the person you are going to see a good grilling on what they know about ANT and trigger points. You will probably have to pay to see them, but it is normally worth it.