|Often mentioned misconceptions about RSI|
There are still plenty of myths about RSI. The six most common are:
In the Netherlands, 3.2 million working people have RSI symptoms. That's two in five of the working population, and by no means all of those people do computer work. RSI also affects people who have little or nothing to do with computers: cleaners, welders, musicians, packers, butchers and so on (TNO Arbeid - Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research – Work and Employment, 2005). No fewer than 49% of hairdressers have RSI symptoms (Kappersbond FNV trade union, 2003).
When computer work was still thought to be the sole cause of RSI, the mouse was blamed, which is why the condition was sometimes called 'mouse arm'. Prolonged computer work – often in an incorrect work posture and/or an unergonomic workplace – is just one of the possible causes of RSI. It turns out to make no difference whether you use the mouse more than the keyboard or vice versa.
RSI has a reputation as a disease that leaves you permanently incapacitated, but this is quite unjustified. Even though RSI symptoms are common and RSI is the most frequently reported occupational disease, it accounted for only 3% of people receiving incapacity benefit under the old (WAO) scheme (figures are not yet available for the new (WIA) one). Luckily, most symptoms do not lead to prolonged sick leave. Only one RSI sufferer in a hundred is off work for more than three months. Those who receive incapacity benefit because of RSI mostly spend the time working hard to recover. Experience has shown that most of them resume work.
Luckily, RSI symptoms do not usually last. Even people who are in constant pain from such ordinary activities as holding a cup or combing their hair can get back to the stage where the symptoms began and eventually make a full recovery. It is therefore a misconception that RSI always becomes chronic. Indeed, even chronic symptoms that have persisted for a long time may eventually disappear, although a chronic sensitivity may remain, causing symptoms to recur if the sufferer lets things slip again. It is therefore important to respond quickly to new or recurring symptoms by taking more breaks, varying the work you do, improving your posture and/or workplace and reducing stress wherever possible. Consult your GP, company
If 3.2 million working people in the Netherlands have RSI symptoms, why shouldn't it happen to you? Many RSI sufferers also assumed it would ever happen to them, and carried on doing computer or other work without enough breaks, in unergonomic workplaces and with too much unhealthy stress – until they could longer ignore the pain and were forced to stop working, often for quite a while. It is essential to take action in good time and not to ignore the signals (pain in your arms, neck and shoulders).
There's no such thing as RSI – it's 'all in the mind'Doctors find RSI awkward to deal with, for no medically demonstrable disorders supporting the diagnosis 'non-specific RSI' have yet been found. RSI is an umbrella term that can cover a wide range of symptoms. There are therefore doctors who claim that there is no such thing as RSI and that the symptoms can always be attributed to stress and other psychological factors. Similar views have been expressed by politicians and in the media. However, research carried out among members of the Dutch RSI Association by the Coronel Institute for Occupational Health and the Environment has shown that people with RSI symptoms are mentally just as healthy as other Dutch working people, and are no more susceptible to stress or burn-out. Those who still claim that RSI is all in the mind need to do their homework!