Time to think again?

I have been very surprised by the lack of emails which relate to perhaps the root of many people’s RSI – a combination of stress/anxiety and psychological factors. Whilst I appreciate (as an RSI sufferer) the need to discuss how to cope with everyday tasks, the biggest hurdle is to recognise that the ultimate cause of one’s symptoms is not purely physical. That your individual psychology has led (or been triggered by your environment) to the manifestation of your anxiety and stress in a physical form. Your physical symptoms are fact, but are you missing the point? I think my own case stemmed from a combination of excessive physical and mental stress – but I recognise that I am probably more inclined to RSI as a condition than others. My advice is that everyone should perhaps spend an equal if not greater amount of their time seeking answers within themselves;

  • as to if you are anxious/stressed,
  • why this is so – looking for the fundamental causes (e.g NOT I don’t like the people I work with, but perhaps I really want to be somewhere else, doing a completely different job),
  • then finally looking for a solution. The solution part maybe hard, because it may mean facing up to your fears/taking a risk or possibly changes to the way you have been living.

I for one wrestle with the changes I think I must make, but if I am ever to recover – this will be the most important part. Physical aid, such as physios, osteos etc., for me, will only help (and they have done nothing in over a year) when I have begun to change myself.

Comment 1: I must admit I don’t know what factors make people more likely to get RSI. However, I know that my own circumstances were not to do with my own psychological nature but rather conditions imposed on me from the workplace -these may be similar to other people’s experiences e.g. bad workstation, excessive workloads, non understanding bosses etc. Stress and anxiety may be another pressure that makes the condition worse – I believe these resulted from the stuff above in my case. I’m not sure that they mean we are likely to be more susceptible to RSI though? What do others think? However, I agree that we should look at lifestyles and reduce activities that are unnecessary – in fact my physio has taught me total relaxation and this has certainly made me more peaceful. However when it comes to the employers I am still a man on a crusade!

Comment 2: I second what he says. I have only met him once but he is immensely positive and I can see anxiety being a factor in his RSI. It is one of those things I would not like to admit to as I am sure employers would like to have anxiety as a scapegoat.

Comment 3: IMHO, this list is most useful for encouragement, and practical advice on the physical side of RSI. While stress may exacerbate or even cause RSI, I wouldn’t want re-evaluate my life over the internet.  I prefer talking to a friend over a beer! Of course, from time to time, we all need to be reminded that RSI may not be purely physical. And it would be good to hear from anyone who has made significant recovery by redesigning their life. But I doubt it will ever generate the sort of list-volume as the day-to-day “I tried this and it helped” stuff. BTW, I’m actually pretty convinced my RSI is not stress related. Firstly, I’m not stressed, and secondly, I developed tenosynovitis while on holiday!!! 😉

Comment 4: My humble opinion is …. of course stress affects RSI, it affects everything! Good and bad stress can lead to all sorts of physical and mental problems, there’s no end to the havoc stress can cause to our wellbeing. Think of for example, angina, dermatitis, digestive problems…. but how come stress in me or you can give me or you RSI? Surely, there has to be a physical predisposition to it? Can we simply say, remove the stress, and the RSI will be gone? Can we say if I had not had stress, then it would never have happened? And how come we get RSI doing things we love, like playing musical instruments, writing … and how come some people have enormous stress and don’t get it … and who does not have stress in their lives … Sorry, getting stressed out here!

Comment 5: I am sure stress/anxiety can be a contributory factor to getting RSI – tense up when in a bad typing situation, and it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but to say that the stress caused the RSI might be like saying that stress causes someone’s heart attack after a lifetime of 40 a day and greasy food.

Comment 6: I quite agree. I loved my job and was good at it too – that was the trouble – everyone would bring their work to me to be done. Stress was not the cause of my RSI but overload and I believe that this goes for the majority of us. There’s only two reasons I get stressed out nowadays – one because RSI has caused me to give up an awful lot of things in my life (I even have problems feeding and carrying my baby son!) and two when people talk to me as though my illness only exists in my mind and if only I’d relax and ‘go with the flow’ then it will go away and I would probably never have got it in the first place!

Comment 7: The funny thing is people who are dying of cancer sometimes run into exactly the same reaction – “You probably got it in the first place because you had the wrong attitude” and “If you just correct your attitude, it will go away.” A strange and unhelpful way to talk to someone who’s in trouble, but if they think that way about terminal disease it’s no wonder they’re dismissive about RSI. They’re the ones who need a new attitude.

Comment 8: Ros Coward’s “The Whole Truth” – a critique of alternative medicine, contains a useful and suitably tart discussion of responses like that (she documents instances of their use by certain alternative therapists). I use alternative medicine, but I also recommend the book.
Comment 9: I know a lot of people have rushed to answer – hope you don’t mind yet another reply. Sorry but I have to totally disagree with the idea that RSI is caused by stress; in my experience, RSI comes first, and depending upon how understanding (or not) one’s colleagues, doctors, and employers are, stress MAY follow. In my experience, far too many quote experts unquote still have it firmly fixed in their minds that “people get RSI because they don’t like their jobs”. This insulting assumption was actually said to me by the first consultant I saw (I immediately asked to see another one, of course). The first consultant had never met me before, and could not have had any idea what sort of person I was or if I liked my job or not or got stressed by it (in fact I loved it, especially keyboard work, and was devastated to realise I had lost my typing and shorthand skills). My GP was prepared to fall in with this man’s opinion (who was not a psychiatrist or psychologist or anything similar), in spite of having witnessed my plainly-horrified reaction when GP told me I might have to give up my job.

Only after I received a diagnosis from second and third consultant of actual physical damage (“distinct” RSI) did it appear my GP (and my psychologist brother, incidentally) were now prepared to believe me. It seemed wrong to me that I was presumed without any evidence to be suffering from stress rather than RSI (in spite of clear physical symptoms of damage to my hands/arms/back) and very unfair that the onus was on me to prove I was NOT suffering from a psychometric illness. I believe this to be a fundamentally lazy way of quote diagnosing unquote, when doctors rely on what might have been true in a very few cases instead of looking at each individual case and actually diagnosing from the evidence. It quite literally adds insult to injury.

Sorry this might seem a bit strong, I’m not getting at you personally, but at the quasi-experts who have no training in matters psychiatric but whose opinion seems to count for far more than what the poor patient is telling them (and don’t forget firm’s doctors are employed by the very people, i.e., the employers, for whom it would be most convenient if they could prove RSI is quote all in the mind unquote). If I had been BELIEVED at the time of my injury (and I was not looking for massive compensation, only some adjustments at work such as voice-recognition which would mean I would not have had to input manually so much), I would not have subsequently been obliged to type which I believe made my original injury worse.

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