Simple question – Explanations

Question: I got a mild case of RSI by using some bad office equipment. Now, two months on its getting better (I’ve continued to work through it). In any of your experiences is the problem that I have likely to occur again? Am I susceptible to these kinds of problems?

Answer 1: There’s a study just one that shows that workers in a stressful environment, doing the same amount of typing (actually, same number of hours: so the study’s flawed) as workers in a non-stressed environment, are more likely to get RSI. That isn’t the same thing as “being stressed” as an individual, which is the kind of thing I’m addressing. (The possible flaw in the study is this: the workers in group 2 might well be doing less actual typing, and/or taking more breaks. They might have more “real” breaks i.e. feel more relaxed when they’re taking them, because the environment’s more relaxed.) My objection to “psychosomatic” stems from the way it’s often used,  “all in the mind”!

Then I suppose we both want to know that because yes, I learned the relaxation techniques (interesting: I tried several before I found the best one for me, which is a “mind over matter” one” long before I got RSI. And as I have a bad back I was using the right chairs, etc., long before I got RSI. If I’d been depressed I’d have headed for treatment right away. I dodged the depression. Circumstances are important here. I’d just finished a book, and turned to marking essays: and it was in the middle of that marking that my hands finally said NO. So in the bit where other people might have been feeling “unworthy” – not that I see why.

I was looking at possible book covers, and so on. People vary in their views of cognitive therapy (which is all I can say as I haven’t had it, though I suspect I’ve practised it on myself!). But surely everyone grips things differently according to the circumstances?  I don’t know whether I used to grip things too hard or not. I know I typed fast and furious, not because of a personality trait; and the 2 other people I know here who have more or less exactly the same diagnosis did so too. That’s about all we have in common. Back to Grip: I’d have thought it possible to be conscious of grip strength, and temper it.

Answer 2: Should I consider a referral, if so where is the first point of call? Could a lack of exercise make one susceptible? To be honest what depresses me most is that I’m only 22, I’ve worked with computers for years (2 years commercial + years of a computer science degree). I was thinking that all of this pain is just not worth it and think that maybe I should just consider a new career. What worries me though, is if I get better now (and I feel I am getting better) will it come back, later when I have a mortgage etc. (commitments) where I HAVE to work, can’t stop. I guess some of you reading this are in this situation now. How’s the Speech Recognition packages now? I thought of buying one, do you need a really powerful computer, loads of memory etc. Also how’s the accuracy – are they good or just a pain to use? Finally, thanks for all the comments so far to everyone, some of the things I’ve read are a warning to us all.

Answer 3: “Should I consider a referral, if so where is the first point of call?” – Your GP. If your GP won’t refer you, ask around. Sports centres sometimes have physios who know about RSI.  Try not to think “susceptible” (I just don’t like the word!). I was fit when I got this, very. But exercise is a good idea, yes. Not just any exercise. Walking and swimming are both said to be good. I walk. If I swam, I’d swim backstroke. That way your hands and wrists are straight. Programmers use voice software  which you mention below. I’ll get back to you on that  other people on the List use it too. I have some refs on programming, on using a PC to replace a unix terminal, on macros for programmers and all that.

“What wories me though, is if I get better now (and I feel I am getting better) will it come back, later when I have a mortgage etc. (commitments) where I HAVE to work, can’t stop…” –  And that is where PACT comes in: provision of help of various kinds. And things like the Disability Living Allowance (don’t let “disabled” and “disability” scare you). The accuracy of Speech Recognition package is remarkable. The latest generation which will shortly be replaced by the next is amazing. A programmer can use and may be better off with a program that allows hands-free use and is better on command and control than the continuous speech ones (I have one of each; they team). If you only use the discrete one — the first kind and many programmers prefer it, you need minimal hardware.

Some people find it more difficult to use. Its accuracy is fine. I’m running a top-range continuous speech one and a discrete one (the programmers’ favourite one) on a PII 266 with 128 sdram (not BX Board, not 100mhz ram) and a real cheapo sound card, and I’m doing fine. — the discrete one really whizzes along. I run WP8 along with them. But most people use faster machines and if I were buying now I would too. Susan is an RSI expert and an expert user; all three major software firms’ products are discussed there.

Answer 4:  “I noticed my hands were getting clumsy, etc.” – Yes. It was happening for at least a year before I started getting pain in my arms. I thought packaging was going mad. I used to have to get other people in office to open sandwiches for me (the sort that come in a triangular pack. With hindsight it’s obvious but at the time it never even occurred to me it could have anything to do with work.

Answer 5: I’m 25 and a post-grad student in London. I developed “Work Related Upper Limb Disorder, Types 1 and 2” (as my doctor succinctly puts it!) about 18 months ago after working with a mouse for 2 years. I have an aunt and a cousin with similar problems, so we think there must be some kind of ‘susceptibility’ pattern there. Anyway…the real point of this mailing is re: mortgages and planning for the future. This whole thing really hit me (and my partner) out of the blue and we had to re-arrange our plans, just when we were about to buy. But, we found our mortgage lender didn’t see me having RSI as a big block to lending to us. But they did recommend taking out an income protection plan (permanent health insurance). It pays regular monthly benefits until you are well enough to start work again. And it gives you some peace of mind.

There was a very good article on this, in relation to long-term health problems which come and go, like RSI, in one of the broadsheets quite recently (i.e. end Sept-mid Nov, not the FT – sorry can’t be more specific). I’ve done a quick search on the Electronic Telegraph but it didn’t come up. Perhaps somebody out there was organised enough to cut it out or remembers which paper it was in?

Answer 6: “But they did recommend taking out an income protection plan (permanent health insurance). It pays regular monthly benefits until you are well enough to start work again. And it gives you some peace of mind.” – I have one in addition to the one my pension payments include taken out ages ago, long before I got RSI, and forgot to mention it!


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