EDitorial ± 16-Jun-2008

Upper Limb Disorder

Captain Cliche is a-calling -- he say: This Is Hurting Me A Lot More Than It's Hurting You. As of June 2007, this is officially the case. Turns out that Michael Stipe was right:

Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand
Oh no
— R.E.M., Everybody Hurts

Disregarding Mike's lyrical advice, I threw my hand and now it megahertz. I'd been having the odd shooting pain in my lower right arm for a week or so. Like any male of the species, I told nobody and hoped it would go away. Which it duly didn't. Also, it seemed worse when using a mouse or keyboard. Given my line of "work", this was .. what's the word: inconvenient? unfortunate? inopportune?

In the office, you'd find me pausing between killer Unix commands to place my right elbow behind my head, fingers dangling by my left ear, reminiscent of Robert Lindsay's character in GBH. Not an attractive pose but one that provided some brief respite. Ultimately, you can't go through life with the posture of a trainee Romero zombie. Took advantage of a mid-afternoon Thursday network failure to take my dead arm to the local health centre.

[me] Er, I'd like to see a doctor, please.
[receptionist] OK: do you have an appointment?
[me] Er, no. But I'd like to see a doctor soon, please.
[receptionist] Well, the earliest I can fit you in is Monday.

Patchy pathetic pleading ensued -- receptionist said she wanted to see me hobble across the waiting room floor -- it's not my leg! Eventually I won my prize of an emergency appt later that day. Too much Hugh Laurie in House and I'm picturing a glass-roomed diagnosis room with whiteboard stage centre, team of bright & eager consultants at the ready. Isn't quite like that. What's up, Doc?

He asks penetrating questions and prods and pulls my neck and arm. Ouch. If it didn't hurt much before; actually, it did. Says he: "Do you use a laptop?" Ding! Afraid I do, with evening callout every other week, trackpad and all. What you've got, he continues, is an work related upper limb disorder. Not to be confused with RSI, apparently, which is much more to do with extreme repeated movements: classic case is chicken evisceration. Yum. Note this is different again from RSJ, which affects your joints.

We're seeing this a lot recently, he goes on, esp. with commuters using laptops on trains, arms scrunched up and with their neck at the wrong angle. You'll need to:

  • take these three-times-a-day anti inflammatories,
  • and find a better working posture


If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

  1. red pill: don't confuse your mouse finger with Fingermouse, "a kind of wondermouse"
  2. blue pill: when it even hurts to read on the loo, seek help

Be seeing you!