Sunday, March 02, 2008

Oops! RSI

The stages of RSI ...

"First up: disclaimer. This is about health hazards of using a computer keyboard all day. I am a computer geek. Not a medical practitioner. If you have symptoms that you believe are related to your use of computers, go see a doctor.

Twenty five years bashing a computer keyboard has finally caught up with me I'm afraid. Movable aches and pains running up and down arms, in and out of my wrists, through my fingers, shooting pains in my shoulder and arm muscles...the works!

There are two common acronyms related to this state of affairs. RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). Both are problematic pieces of terminology for reasons we will get to soon.

If, for want of a better label, you think of yourself as having RSI or CTS, you might find my story interesting for comparative purposes. If you don't have symptoms, please don't conclude this piece will be of no relevance to you. RSI/CTS can be cumulative. You do not have to overtly injure yourself to bring it on. It has most likely incubated in me for decades, silently getting stronger and stronger and then popping out dramatically. I did not have RSI/CTS for twenty five years. And now, all of a sudden, boom, I do! Next week, it could be you.

Next up: the terminology problem. The term RSI covers a wide variety of symptoms and causes. So much so that it is next to useless in pinning down a particular cause or particular effect. Also next to useless is the other regularly encountered acronym CTS - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The carpal tunnel is in your wrist. Pains in your wrists could be because of a compressed nerve in your wrist. This is true of CTS as I understand it. However, there appear to be lots of ways in which pain in the wrist can be the effect but not the ultimate cause. Unfortunately, conflating the effect with the cause appears commonplace out there.

Next up: my story so far. It all began in November 2007...

Phase 1: Aches, pains and denial. I have been doing this computer keyboarding thing for twenty five years darn it! This RSI thing cannot happen now. Surely my system is used to whatever stresses and strains keyboarding causes? Besides, how can gently tapping keys cause injury? Now if I was a professional lumberjack or baseball pitcher, perhaps but keyboarding?

Phase 2: Doctor visit. "You have a repetitive strain my friend. Just rest it up and you will be fine."

Phase 3: I Rest up. In my case 12 clear days without so much as touching a keyboard over the Christmas break period. 12 days!"    (Continued via ITworld)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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