RSI and RSI Prevention Software FAQ

Do I Have RSI?

If you are experiencing pains in your muscles, tendons or nerves of the neck, shoulder, forearm and hand which seem to be aggravated following computer use then you may well have the early symptoms of RSI. You should consult with a medical professional to confirm the diagnosis and eliminate other possible causes.

Even if you do not have RSI, you should read our RSI prevention tips. Take the pains you are having as a warning. RSI prevention is far easier than RSI recovery.

What steps can I take to help prevent RSI?

Try our 10 Simple Tips to Help Prevent RSI/OOS. Also try reading one or more of the books below.

Where can I find out more about RSI?

Books

I found the following book quite helpful:

Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer Users's Guide, Emil Pascarelli & Deborah Quilter, ISBN 0471595330, Wiley, 1994.

This book is cited by almost every other book or article on the topic.

I also liked:

It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals by Suparna Damany, Jack Bellis, Martin Cherniack, ISBN 0965510999, 2000.

This book argues strongly that you need to look for (and treat) the causes of RSI, rather than just treat an individual symptom. It gets good reader reviews, and has an associated web site at www.rsirescue.com.

Another excellent resource is the Typing Injuries FAQ. This contains a wide variety of information about repetitive strain injuries and various resources available for dealing with these ailments. Highly recommended.

Paul Marxhausen's Computer Related RSI Page has an extensive book list and links to information on Worker's Compensation.

Yale has some good information on workstation ergonomics.

RSI Personal Case Histories

Some people who have had RSI have been kind enough to write up their experience on the web as a warning to others. Some good ones I know of are:

  • Justin Bennett, who has put together a whole website about his two year struggle with RSI. Read the My Story section for a chronicle of what happened, or the Patterns of Thought section for an understanding of some of the psychological effects of chronic pain.
  • Stephen Kellett , a software engineer.
  • Annie Abrahams, a poet (mostly in French)
  • David Ruegg, a (former) IT contractor who has also written a book on the subject.
  • William Silverstein, who lost his job due to RSI. (The site now concentrates on free speech issues)
  • Nancy Lanthier , who was fortunately able to take six weeks paid leave to recover.
  • Anonymous, the author of ErgoBlog who developed RSI (possibly from game playing) at 25.
  • Guillaume Marceau tells of his own struggle with RSI in a blog entry. Guillaume was forced to take a four year break from programming due to RSI. The blog also links to a summary of his own research on RSI, including a good medical description, MRI pictures, and suggestions (similar to those found here) for avoiding RSI. (The latter is in English and French).
Read these (sometimes gruelling) stories if you think that RSI is no more than a pain in the wrist.

Mice and Mouse Shortcuts

If your "mouse" hand or arm is giving you trouble, then you may want to brush up on your Windows shortcuts. Our free booklet The Reluctant Mouser: A Guide to Windows Keyboard Shortcuts may help you eliminate a lot of mouse usage. You might also read 10 tips for Computer Mouse Use written by Cornell University's Ergonomics group. Recently I've experimented with a MouseBean, a neat little hand rest which helps keep your wrist in a better position and avoids pressure on the median nerve.

You can also try switching your mouse hand — personal experience suggests it takes about a week to become proficient with both hands. Of course, try and eliminate the underlying problems before you do this, or you will end up with two problems instead of one.

Glossary of RSI Terms

Our Glossary of RSI Terms contains some of the key RSI terms you will encounter.

International Information

Dutch readers should check out The RSI Center. Although aimed at a Dutch audience, it also has a great deal of English language content. UK readers may find The RSI-UK Mailing List helpful. There is also a UK RSI Association. (For UK information also try searching under the term Work Related Upper Limb Disorders.)

For French information, the search terms to try are TMS (troubles musculo-squelettiques) or TMS-RSI. There's also a TMS-RSI discussion group which may be helpful.

Our RSI glossary page lists some of the other terms used for RSI around the world.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety prefers the term WMSD (Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders) to RSI. Nevertheless, they have a good introductory page which describes RSI both in a computer and non-computer context.

In New Zealand, RSI is known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). The OOS Injuries page has some good resources specifically for NZ readers.

Newsgroups

The old usenet RSI news group misc.health.injuries.rsi.moderated may be dead, but it's Frequently Asked Questions lives on, frozen in time in 1998.

Software Checklist

If you are looking for software to help you to remember to take regular RSI prevention breaks while using the computer, our checklist may help. Obviously as authors of the successful RSI break reminder program Albion StopNow! we cannot be entirely neutral in deciding which features are the most important.

Design for Ergonomics and RSI Prevention

If you are interested in designing a work environment or user interface to reduce the risk of RSI, you probably should consider employing specialist consultants. Usernomics is one company that recently came to our attention. For an introductory guide to ergonomics you might also want to read Ergonomics for Beginners.

If you know of a resource I should add to this page, please let us know using our Contact Form.

(I'm currently putting together some information about RSI from an employer's perspective. Suggestions for additional things an employer should know would be welcome.)

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Reader Feedback

Comments from readers of this page:

  • What are steps to help prevent rsi?
    The RSI/OOS prevention tips are now on a separate page. Hopefully the link is more obvious now.
Will taking regular breaks work for me? Download a free trial of Albion StopNow! to find out.