Nerve damage shows RSI is not just in the mind

THE DISABLING condition known as repetitive strain injury (RSI) is not all in the mind but may be caused by sensory damage to the nerves in the hand, researchers say.

A study comparing office workers with patients suffering from RSI found measurable differences in their response to vibration which worsened among the patients after five minutes of typing. The findings, the first to demonstrate that RSI is a medical condition with a physiological basis, could lead to the development of a test for the condition.

Scepticism about the true basis of RSI, which affects thousands of employees and has left many unable to work, has made it difficult for sufferers to gain support or win compensation. Although the condition is associated with long hours spent working at computer keyboards, it affects a range of industrial workers who perform repetitive movements, from chicken pluckers to toilet-roll manufacturers.

The research, conducted at University College, London, and published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, used "vibrometer" tests on keyboard and non-keyboard users and found that RSI sufferers had reduced vibration sensitivity in the area of the hand supplied by the median and ulnar nerves. They felt normal pressure in this area as pain, indicating nerve damage. The study, funded by the medical charity Action Research, was conducted on 29 office workers, 17 patients with RSI and 27 controls who did not use computer keyboards regularly.

The Trades Union Congress, which claims that 100,000 keyboard workers and a similar number in other jobs suffer RSI, said the finding would help the worst affected win compensation. John Monks, TUC general secretary, said: "Tens of thousands of sufferers can take some comfort today from this evidence proving their pain is real - the product of intensive computer use. The dangers of computer over-use should now be clear to employers and their insurers and they must take urgent steps to ensure that the work they are giving their staff is safe."

The finance union BIFU, which is awaiting the outcome of five test cases involving Midland Bank employees who worked on in-putting cheque and other information to computers to strict time limits, called for RSI to be a recognised industrial injury which would allow sufferers to qualify automatically for industrial injury disablement benefit.

Tom Jones, a personal injury lawyer with the London law firm, Thompsons, which handles several hundred RSI claims a year, said compensation was easier to win in cases of "pathological" RSI where there were clear physical symptoms - "lumps and bumps". "Diffuse" RSI, where there were no physical signs, was much harder to prove.

"This study suggests it is possible to prove injury in diffuse RSI. It is the first step on the ladder to giving some credence to those people who claim their injuries are caused by their work."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine