RSI/backache correlation: RESULTS

Thank you very much for your messages on the possible RSI/backache correlation. Many of the messages on this topic emphasise the fact that once you get RSI, say in your hands, it may spread to your back leading to backache problems. I was not surprised to hear this, since I’ve read about this in several places. So, it seems clear that RSI can cause back pain (perhaps some forms of back pain are in fact early symptoms of RSI). However, the reason for my questionnaire was to see if prior backache problems could be a contributing factor to RSI. My hypothesis was that people with backache tend to avoid lifting heavy stuff thereby reducing the strength of their hands, arms and shoulders. This in turn might make catching RSI easier. Of the 8 messages on the RSA/backache subject sent directly to me, six reported that backache came first and was later followed by RSI. At the end of this message you can find a summary of the data contained in those messages plus my own data. I invite all of you to analyse or have a look at the data independently. I provide below my own personal opinions (beware!).


Even considering that some people did not have the time to reply to my message, seven cases out of about 300 members of this list give us an incidence of something like 2% or so for non-RSI related backache. Although I do not have any statistical data on the incidence of backache in the general population, this figure sounds to me very low. Certainly not big enough to support the claim that “backache contributes to causing RSI“. (If anything it seems more plausible that RSI sufferers are protected against spine problems because they tend to be more careful with what the lift.) The fact that six out of the seven patients below reported to have (also) diffuse RSI seems compatible with what I have read recently in a book i.e. that in about 90% of the cases RSI is diffuse. The fact that on average RSI started 2.5 years ago in the seven cases reported below while backache started on average 12.5 years ago seems to suggest that, if prior spine problems have an effect on RSI, this effect must be very small. It is even possible (if not plausible), that not lifting heavy stuff protected back pain sufferers from getting RSI for quite some time.

Backache does not cause RSI
How long ago did you get RSI?

R.P. 1.5 years                       B.S. 3.5 years                                    D.D. 1.5 years
P.S. 2 years                           F.C. 0.5 years                                    G.B. 7 years
L.G. 1.5 years

What form of RSI?

R.P. diffuse                           B.S. tenosynovitis plus diffuse      D.D. diffuse
P.S. diffuse plus specific     F.C. tendonitis                               G.B. diffuse?
L.G. diffuse

How long ago did you get backache?

R.P. 3 years                           B.S. 15 years                                     D.D. 10 years
P.S. 20 years                         F.C. 4 years (intermittent)                 G.B. 20 years
L.G. 16 years

Did you stop/decreased lifting heavy stuff after you got backache?

R.P. yes                                  B.S. yes                                              D.D. yes
P.S. yes                                  F.C. when necessary                        G.B. most of the time
L.G. probably

If so, the you do this following your doctor’s advice?

R.P. yes                                            B.S. no, general advice for backpain sufferers
D.D. no, chiropractor and osteopath                                            P.S. yes
F.C. no, commonsense                   G.B. not available                L.G. not available

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