Career Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 3 – RSI Dealing With A Long Term Condition)

The following article is a follow-on from RSI – What to do? (Part 1 – RSI Initial Symptoms) and RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms) .

OK, so you are experiencing a long term RSI condition, ie it has gradually worsened for more than 2 years. You are in continual pain at work and find it difficult to do your job. You have perhaps gone through consultations with ergonomists, doctors, physiotherapists and just about anybody who’ll listen, but still you find no relief. You struggle to remember what it felt like not to associate pain with computer use. You may be wearing an arm brace (and probably have a large collection of them by now), and you probably have a sizeable collection of strange ergonomic mice at your computer that don’t seem to help. Your employer keeps expecting the same work output from you and you stress about how you can get through it. You get by by doing what you can, but generally come home each night from work and feel anxious about the situation and the searing pain down your arms. You wonder what you can do, and how you are supposed to live a normal life – you can’t remember what normal life was like before this injury!

So what are the options then? Well I remember a great bit of advice from my father

Career RSI

Lunch breaks are not for wimps!

I found this article on the BBC News Magazine web page which got me all fired up just by it’s title “Are lunch breaks really for wimps?“. The article points to research which paints a truly scary picture of current work practices. The following are some quotes –

“Only one in six workers takes a regular lunch break.”

“One consequence of the credit crunch is that breaks are getting even shorter as job insecurity increases.”

“Employees are struggling to keep on top of to-do lists and think the answer is to work harder, eating a sandwich at their desk as opposed to taking a full lunch break, and also not having sufficient breaks during the rest of the day.”

“The vast majority of people are having lunch at their desk while working. That’s the average person now. Very rarely do they get out of the office.”

“If senior management create a culture that lunch is for wimps, it’s counter productive. We all need breaks.”

The research quoted in this article, if valid, foretells a very bleak scenario for

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

RSI, Mind over Matter?

mind over matterDuring the course of my injury, I have frequently encountered opinions and references to RSI injuries being “all in the mind” (a reference to the sufferer somehow psychologically inducing RSI pain rather than there being an actual physical cause).

Addressing this idea seems to have worked for some people. Other people see the condition as solely a physical disability and treat it as such. I however prefer to believe that it is more than likely a merging of the two in a pain cycle that contributes to the worsening of such injuries.

The following is a list some of the physical and psychological factors with RSI injuries –

Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms)

This is a follow on article from Part 1 which dealt with managing Initial RSI Symptoms.

The following is relevant if you have been experiencing RSI symptoms for a few months and they are now persistent in nature.

wrist_pain.jpgThe rate of success in dealing with RSI symptoms is proportional to the speed that a sufferer can diagnose the causes of those symptoms, and their understanding of the corrective actions required to avoid further injury.

The onset time for RSI injuries can be fairly rapid (in my own case I went from having initial symptoms to intermediate symptoms within 3 to 4 months. It is therefore vital that sufferers glean RSI knowledge as fast as possible, try to understand the causes of their symptoms, and make the necessary adjustments to their working practices.

So the scenario for this article is of a worker who has had RSI symptoms for a few months, and is experiencing any of the following –

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

RSI – will workers ever listen?

RSI is in the news again today with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy calling for employers to take RSI injuries more seriously. Among their recommendations are – regular breaks for workers, access to Occupational Health Specialists, and risk assessments for employees. All of these suggestions are great, and need to be seriously looked at since there appears to be a spiraling in the numbers of cases of RSI injuries. In the same article, according to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 115,00 new cases of RSI reported in the UK alone last year.

Coming from an office environment with a large employer, I have witnessed first hand how difficult it is to educate a workforce in the dangers of using a computer. Employers can spend vast sums of money on employee ergonomic education and can still make little impact on workers’ perceptions on computer use.

Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 1 – RSI Initial Symptoms)

It can be a very confusing time for a computer user when they first experience RSI symptoms. The symptoms can often develop after a protracted period of intensified work, which may be ongoing. Initial injury symptoms can be very mild and will more than likely be ignored by the worker who will continue to work through them. This may be because the worker feels that the symptoms are very slight, and are manageable, or they may simply be confused about what those symptoms are. At this stage it is highly likely that the worker will not consult anyone about their symptoms eg an ergonomist, a company doctor, GP etc, and will more often than not want to avoid exposing their problem (however small) to their employer.

The danger with this is that, if symptoms are left unchecked, it can lead to their rapid worsening and the long march to a more debilitating (and difficult to treat) condition.

This need not be the case. There is a lot you can do at this early stage of RSI symptoms to help yourself.

Ergonomics Input Devices RSI Tips

Of Mice and Men – Mice and RSI

I’ve had a rather unpleasant history with mouse use, culminating in the inability to use a bog standard mouse with either hand for more than 2-3 minutes before the onset of severe pain. This reaction has built up over many years of mouse (ab)usage, and I have a certain loathing for the devices now. It has to be said that many of the cheaper mice (normally the ones shipped by certain PC manufacturers) are some of the most unergonomic pieces of equipment available. Computer manufacturers have a lot to answer for having shipped us less than ergonomic mice with their computers for the last 20 years. Quite often an end user does not experience any other type of mouse apart from the one that ships with their computer system. Whilst these mice are designed with aesthetically pleasing features, their ergonomic qualities leave a lot to be desired. This can of course be tolerable if the user seldom uses the computer, but if they do use it a lot then it can ultimately lead to the onset of RSI type symptoms.

Having seen what manufacturers ship with their systems, I would be a proponent of legislation to ensure that the basic minimum mouse is an ergonomic one.

Ergonomics RSI Tips

Keyboard Thumping and RSI

One vivid memory of my injury when employed was watching how fellow workers in certain situations thumped their keyboards. I remember it well, because I used to wince when I saw them do it.

Having been an RSI sufferer for the best part of a decade, and having come from an identical background to my colleagues (and no doubt had been prone to thumping keyboards in my time), I fully realised the implications of the use of excessive force as people interacted with their keyboards.

Keyboard thumping (the act of hitting the keyboard keys with exaggerated force or heavy pounding) can be barely noticed by the user, but is usually attributable to them being overly frustrated with the computer/piece of software being used or or emotionally involved with an angry ‘flame’ mail etc. During these times it is not unusual for this anger and stress to build up and be vented in this way. There is really no place for emotional frustration and computer use. Your body needs to be ergonomically positioned, relaxed and fluid when interacting with computers in order to minimise the exposure to RSI causing effects, and not demonstrating emotional reactions like the guy below!

The keyboard/computer is ‘paying the price’ for the person’s anger and frustration.

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

Maximum Exposure to RSI

We live in a technology driven world and seem to spend much of our lives using electronic gadgets. These include:

  • computers (mice/keyboards) for our work, gaming, web surfing, emailing, blogging, socialising
  • organisers to plan our lives
  • mobile phones for text messaging, web surfing etc
  • other hand held email devices
  • mp3 players
  • digital cameras
  • laptops
  • game consoles
  • TV remotes and 100’s of channels to hop

What do all these devices have in common?

RSI Tips

Medical Solutions – Physical Therapy

Often RSI sufferers will be referred by their doctor for physical therapy, which in my experience can range from ‘wonderful’ to ‘complete waste of time’ depending on the experience and attention of the physiotherapist. The most wonderful physical therapy treatment I received for RSI was when living (and working) in Silicon Valley in California. I believe physiotherapists out there were more used to seeing cases of computer related injuries what with the region being the heart of the high tech industry. What did they do that helped with the pain relief so much? Treatments included –