One of the particular frustrations with having an RSI condition is that, as devastating as its impact can be upon lives and careers, it can be easily dismissed as insignificant or “all in the head” by those who have had no insight into its nature. When even the medical community can be guilty of dismissiveness, it’s little wonder that others can be skeptical too.
It doesn’t help that RSI isn’t a terribly visible condition. Even so, when I was wearing 2 arm braces pretty much on a permanent basis, initially they attracted some comment along the lines of, “What have you done to your arm(s)?”. After some time, however, my colleagues became accustomed to seeing me wearing them and I simply became the guy with the arm braces. It also doesn’t help that an RSI such as mine can preclude the movements that caused it, ie working at a computer, but does not necessarily (and thankfully) mean that other activities can’t be undertaken, ie ones that do not employ the same worn-out muscles. When the activities that can still be engaged in happen to be recreational in nature, this only serves to feed suspicion that the RSI somehow isn’t genuine.
I am fortunate in that I can participate in an outdoor activity that involves the use of my arms, and that is kayaking. To the uninformed, that might seem like a contradiction. How is someone who gave up their career because of forearm pain able to paddle? Some brief consideration of the movements involved should answer that question. There is a substantial difference between clicking a computer mouse and a keyboard all day every day and lifting a paddle in and out of the water over a period of a few hours per week. Indeed, the latter could be deemed as a healthy movement involving mainly the upper arm muscle groups including biceps/triceps and shoulders, with minimal forearm motion, and only a light grip. Regardless, I do still have to be mindful of my paddling technique as, for example, incorrect paddle grip could lead to exacerbation of my RSI, especially in the right hand wrist. Indeed, I have invested in a “neutral bent shaft” paddle that is ergonomically designed to lessen the impact of paddle stroke upon the wrists. It is also exceptionally lightweight.
It is easy to form immediate judgements about others’ conditions, but I would encourage anyone who is suffering from an RSI, or who knows someone who is, to educate themselves on the subject thoroughly before jumping to conclusions concerning capabilities.
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