Follow-up: Personal Stories of RSI


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Collected and edited by Lisa M. Balbes.

Last December, I wrote about the personal side of Repetitive Stress Injuries (including, but not limited to, carpal tunnel syndrome), and how it affects people's lives. There was so much interest in these people, we decided to revist them a year later and see how they were doing.

Carolyn P.

(Technical Manager)

The combination of a nineteen year working career, an accident, and a 22 years of a needlework hobby had left Carolyn in constant pain, unable to cross-stitch or open bottles at all, and unable to open doors or mouse right-handed. Eventually, she was unable to put any weight on her right hand at all.

She gave up sewing completely, was able to continue working by using a split keyboard and a brace when typing, and started taking physiotherapy twice a week. Her symptoms have improved slightly, but how completely she will recover is still unknown.

Elizabeth R.

(Medical Secretary)

Elizabeth experienced constant tingling in both hands, and an uncomfortable feeling in her elbows after working at the word processor for about six months. Lowering her keyboard, reducing her workload, and using wrist splints at work for three months eliminated the daily discomfort. Three years later, she still used a wrist support pad and proper hand position when typing, and only typed for limited periods of time.

Currently, she only uses the computer for personal typing (with a wrist support), and experiences wrist discomfort after 5-10 minutes of typing. She has developed osteoarthritis in her right hand, and is on daily anti-inflammatory medication. Her doctor has suggested she return to wearing wrist braces when using the computer.

Kim J.

(Senior Software Engineer)

Kim's computer work lead tingling and numbness in her right wrist, which increased to the point where she was unable to hold onto anything. She tried anti-inflammatory drugs, then elbow to palm splints on both wrists, but eventually required surgery on both wrists. The surgery did improve her wrists, and she's glad she had it done. However, she had problems when she kept her wrists in a bent position for an extended period of time, and learned the hard way to be careful with what she does.

Even several years after the surgery, she can still experience discomfort when she overdoes things.

Martha Beth L.

(piano teacher and author)

Martha Beth believed her problems were caused by a combination of excessive typing and piano playing, not positioning. Her symptoms originally included an ache in the elbow (tennis elbow tendinitis), and later progressed into a burning pain in the wrists and forearms. Exercises to loosen up before typing, frequent breaks, and hand and wrist supports helped, but by far the best prevention from her flare-ups was judicious use of the keyboard.

A year later, she has also cut way back on the amount of typing she does, and "given up the thunder-and-lightening piano pieces...If I've got to have pyrotechnics, I got to my CD player."

Mickey C.

(homemaker and needleworker)

Two months of live chatting, in addition to cross stitching and crocheting, put Mickey into constant pain. Her major symptoms were severe pain on the inside of the wrist and the palm of the hand, burning in her fingers, wrist and palm, pain on top of her arm near the elbow and cramping in her little finger. The second brace she tried seemed to be helping.

A year later, Mickey has her ups and down. She wears the brace at night, when she's been having trouble, andtries not to do too much keyboarding. She's starting to think the problem is that her keyboard is at the wrong height, since she had no problems when she spent 6 weeks using another system.

Sue M.

(Systems Analyst)

Sue's right hand started tingling during the day, and going numb at night. With help from her company's on-staff physical therapist (and none from her personal physician), Sue was able to make a lot of ergonomic changes to her work area. These changes, along with wrist splints at night, alleviated most of her problems.

Sue has also changed jobs, and now spends only 1/4 as much time working on a keyboard, which eliminated the remainder of her symptoms. She also made ergonomic corrections to her new workplace, before problems arose for her or her co-workers.

Original December 1995 Article

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