Repetitive stress injuries


My Aussie friend Sian told me a few years back that the difference between the Aussie (& British, no doubt Commonwealth) usage whinge & the word more commonly used by Americans, whine, is that to whine is simply to complain, whereas to whinge is to complain about something that you are justified in complaining about.  Though either one can, of course, be annoying to the ears of those in proximity.  (But maybe those are just her own connotations.  Interestingly, though, turns out the two words have different etymologies, which may also be read into what follows.)

I have no idea if my recent whinges about RSIs on Twitter have been annoying to anyone.  If anything, followers of my tweets have possibly been annoyed by not knowing what in heck an RSI is.  They’re more likely to know the term carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), identified in Wikipedia as “median neuropathy at the wrist” which is

a medical condition in which the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to paresthesias, numbness and muscle weakness in the hand. The diagnosis of CTS is often misapplied to patients who have activity-related arm pain.

I’ve never definitively been told I’ve got CTS, but then I tend to be shy of accepting diagnoses in the first place, since they are so often lead to boxing people into thinking that whatever diagnosis has been applied to them is a permanent condition of their lives.  To a lot of people, carpal tunnel syndrome leads automatically to the advice that “you need an operation on your wrist,” just as gall bladder attack means “you need to have your gall bladder removed” or depression means “you need to take antidepressants.”

Well, in some cases.  But not in others.  For me, having suffered from depression off & on all my adult life, having had the at least one gall bladder attack that landed me in the emergency room at Providence Hospital, & having suffered from RSIs — which I will now tell you (as if you haven’t already gotten it from the title of this post) stands for repetitive stress injuries or repetitive strain injuries — for about 15 years, off & on, I have in fact subjected myself to none of those treatments.

I first started having problems with RSIs around 1995, primarily because of my job, which involved not simply working on a computer all day but of doing a lot of fine-tuned mouse-work editing documents, doing document layout, creating tables & charts.  That year — I think it was summer — I was working on a particularly huge pile of tables & charts belonging to an annual report, & I was simultaneously creating some complex templates to keep the formatting standard from year to year.

It killed my hands.  Especially my right hand, which, since I’m a northpaw, is my mouse-hand.  And the pain was not only in my hand, but traveled up my arm, all the way up into my right shoulder.  It felt sometimes as if my bones had been twisted into pretzels inside my arms — a kind of pain both chronic & excruciating.

Nowadays it’s not usually so exruciating, but it’s still chronic. How else could it be, given I still work the same job?  But thanks to my ergonomic split keyboard (I was the first in my office to get one), thumb trackball, the right chair, exercises to keep my wrist open, occasional visits to a chiropractor or massage therapist, aspirin or other anti-inflammatories, & Mineral Ice — in general, I manage quite well.

But sometimes the pain flares up, and then I don’t want to write — whether with keyboard & computer, or pen & paper, it hurts.

That’s a part of why I’ve been less verbose as of lately.

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