Taking time off

Went to my GP’s last night – second visit so far. I’m getting pain in my fingers, wrists and forearms, especially when using computer. GP’s initial view last time was tendinitis. Have been cutting down computer use as far as pos and using voice dictation or dictating for my secretary more. GP (who is so far v sympathetic and helpful) asked if I wanted him to sign me off from work for a week “to see if its work related”. Luckily I’m going on holiday next week so was able to avoid this. He suggested that if I’m still having symptoms at the end of the week to phone him and he will sign me off. He’ll also then refer me to a physio.

Taking time off is not really a path I want to start going down unless it’s absolutely necessary. To be perfectly honest, I’m not convinced that time off will actually make much difference. Also, and I know this is a classic symptom of denial and stress, but this really is not a very good time for me to be taking time off work. My head of department had two solicitors in her department last week, and no work, and no one has left, and suddenly we have lots and lots of work, and well, you get the picture. “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too”. Last month would have been fine; next month may well be fine; this month is really rather horrendous. Thoughts?

Comment 1: I think you have to look at the long term – not the short – and take a few days off and completely rest – it is the only way you will know. If you do feel a week is too long, (as I did), take a long weekend and use your hands as little as possible – keep off the computer, don’t drive, don’t mow the lawn and just see if it helps. That’s what I did last weekend and it doesn’t appear to be so much trouble this week, (touch wood!!!).

Comment 2: Although taking time off is not very appealing, you have to look at the bigger picture. There is a possibility that by not taking time off you could be inflicting more injury on yourself, thereby making the recovery cycle even longer. If you have some time off, don’t just sit round the house. Get out and go for walks (I’ve heard many people find relief in letting their arms hang and gently swinging them), but don’t go overboard and start a loft conversion!

If you are determined to stay at work, get a letter from your GP anyway, then read that book on the latest research of xxxx that you haven’t had chance to read! Having worked for a small company, I can understand your concerns about “If I don’t do it, no one else will.”, but then it is widely acknowledged by RSI specialists that the earlier ‘treatment’ by doing something earlier about it now WILL help later on.

Comment 3: My feeling is you need to take at least two weeks off with rest and treatment with anti-inflammatory, ice etc. I didn’t do that when I got mine and I am convinced it is responsible for contributing to the chronic nature. When an injury is in its ‘acute’ stages, you need to be like Pete Sampras…take time off from using the injured part. Bear in mind that with respect to your hands, you are an athlete and you use your hands a lot more than Pete Sampras plays tennis.

Comment 4: Classic case all right. Been there done that. You can construct all sorts of arguments why taking time off can’t be done. They are all predicated on the assumption that your work is more important than the rest of your life. Is it? I would say time off can be really valuable, provided that you keep physically active, without straining your painful areas you use the time to mentally detach from work, perhaps by looking at how you might assist your recovery, or by asking yourself “am I doing what I want to be doing right now”?

Comment 5: I strongly suggest you take some time off. All of us on this list have found it alarming to have RSI, but from what I have read and my own experience, the way to deal with it and not end up having serious long-term problems is to rest now and to do less computer-work from now on. It is hard to come to terms with, but if you do change your work patterns, you are most likely to manage the RSI. I am freelance and it was very difficult for me last autumn when I had two bad flare-ups, but I have rested my hands as much as possible and try to pace my work better. When I have persisted through pain, I have ended up with a completely numb hand which takes a long time to recover. It is far better to ease up with early symptoms. That is what I do now and it means the flare-ups are less serious and don’t last as long. Best of luck. All of us on the list can sympathise with how difficult it is.

Comment 6: Thanks everyone for your advice on this one, which definitely made my mind up to follow my doctor’s advice and take the extra week off after my holiday. But alas… My employer is prepared to let me cut out all computer use but is refusing to let me take time off work as “You can still answer the telephone, can’t you? You can still read things and write* and use your brain, can’t you?” (* I soon set him right on that one) Serves me right for being a “valued employee”, I suppose my employer may relent if told to do so in black and white by my doctor, but I’m pretty cross and upset at the moment.

Comment 7: Didn’t you say you worked in Law – doesn’t he understand HIS duties under the H&S laws…? Good luck with it all and have a good holiday at least!

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