Although there’s no surefire way to tell if you have a stress-related injury, be wary of any pain, numbness, weakness, stiffness, tingling or other unusual sensation in your neck, back, shoulders, arms or hands, especially after a stint at your computer. Symptoms may be delayed or intermittent, so don’t discount them just because they crop up hours or days later. If you suspect you have a problem, here are some steps you can take:
Seek attention. Resist the urge to “work through” the pain — you may end up aggravating the injury. If you think that your symptoms may be related to computer use at work, visit your company’s employee health service to put your complaint on the record. In many cases, employers will pay for new equipment, and even medical care.
Read about it. There’s a wealth of advice and self-help resources in print. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI): A Computer User’s Guide (Wiley, 1994), by experts Dr. Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter, is a classic introduction to RSI. Another good choice is Pascarelli’s Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury: What You Need to Know about RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Wiley, 2004).
Go online. The Web is a good source for information, as long as you cross check recommendations before following them.
The Typing Injury FAQ site features a comprehensive collection of articles and links about preventing and treating RSIs. Carnegie Mellon University and UCLA offer helpful tips on office ergonomics and how to set up workstations.
See a doctor. The list of healthcare professionals who deal with computer related disorders (CRD) includes physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists (or physiotherapists). Just make sure that person is experienced in diagnosing and treating CRDs. Ask coworkers or friends for referrals, or consult an RSI support group in your area.
–Tessler is a radiologist in Birmingham, Ala.