Most people have heard of the term RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury. Many will have read about it in newspapers, or sat through talks on it at work. Few people really understand exactly what it means. RSI is a blanket term commonly used to describe a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders that usually affect the hands, arms and upper body. These disorders can result in pain severe enough to leave a person unable to work, and impinge on almost every single aspect of their daily lives. Very often there are no visible signs that anything is wrong, and this has led to a great deal of scepticism from doctors and employers alike. Anyone who engages in repetitive tasks for more than a few hours day, whether at work or leisure, is at risk from RSI. It affects healthy people of all ages and both sexes. It may not be a life threatening injury, but RSI has the potential to cause crippling disability and pain. Estimates put the cost of these injuries in Britain at around 1 billion a year (TUC figures 1995). It is also believed that over 200,000 new cases are coming to light annually, which indicates a worrying scenario. The story is similar in many other countries too. Although it has affected people in many lines of work over the years, it is now becoming clear that new technology is presenting problems of its own. Millions of people use computers every day, and yet they don't always realise that they may be putting themselves at risk of serious injury. The evidence is growing that we are facing a major increase in cases, across all sections of the population. Universities and colleges in America are now having to accommodate a huge rise in the number of students affected by RSI. Nevertheless there still exists a general myth that it only affects data entry clerks - middle age women in particular - who spend hour after hour pounding a computer keyboard. Some believe that these people are malingerers, bored with their work, or that they are only after compensation and time off. I certainly do not regard myself as fitting into that category. I am a male and I was 23 when I suffered my first symptoms. At the time I was working as a self-employed computer contractor. Despite the fact that I have a degree in Computer Science I can no longer work in my previous job, and have spent many years unemployed. Like every other sufferer I have spoken to, I never, for one moment, considered that RSI would affect me. Unfortunately though, it did. The tragedy is that RSI is entirely preventable, and nobody should suffer from it. It is clearly important for Government and businesses to take this problem seriously. Unfortunately, even amazingly, this is something that still does not seem to be happening at the present time. With the ever increasing dependence on computers in our everyday lives, the situation can really only get worse before it improves.
This book has been written to help those who have RSI, and those who want to know more about its treatment and prevention. Its aims are basically four-fold:
To educate people on the importance of safe working practices, so that they avoid injuries of this nature occurring in the first place.
To enable anyone afflicted by RSI to take control of their own situation, and find effective ways to recover.
To promote greater understanding, discussion and awareness of the condition to anyone who deals with RSI sufferers be they doctors, employers, colleagues, Social Security staff, or just family and friends.
To act as a valuable resource for further information and treatment. Address and contact details of useful organisations are given in the back of this book.