Years ago, I had the good fortune to attend a conference at which Dr. Emil Pascarelli spoke. Considered to be one of the world's leading authorities on repetitive strain injuries, Dr. Pascarelli is as good a writer as he is a speaker. His book, Repetitive Strain Injury – A Computer User’s Guide, is highly recommended for anyone who works on a computer or at a desk. His first book, published in 1995, is an easy-to-read and concise summary of his approach to repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). It was one of the first written about RSIs, and it continues to be one of the best.
Dr. Pascarelli began his study of RSIs not with computer users but with musicians who experienced upper body pain after intense practices and stressful performances. His successful approach was to treat the musician comprehensively by improving a combination of playing technique, positioning, posture and general physical conditioning. Similar problems – improper typing style, poor computer and work ergonomics, an ill-fitting workstation and equipment, a lack of postural awareness, and poor physical conditioning - were observed and addressed when computer users began seeking treatment at his clinic.
Deborah Quilter co-authored Repetitive Strain Injury - The Computer User’s Guide. Ms. Quilter is a journalist and an RSI sufferer who developed painful symptoms so severely that she was in danger of not being able to perform her job. After seeking treatment from Dr. Pascarelli and beginning the slow journey to recovery, Pascarelli and Quilter joined forces to write this guide as a resource to help those already dealing with RSI and to prevent others from developing it.
Between Dr. Pascarelli and Ms. Quilter, thousands of people suffering from RSIs have been observed, treated, and interviewed to provide the common-sense recovery and prevention information outlined in their Seven-Point Program. Their seven-points include the necessity to find a physician who can diagnose and treat the injury appropriately, to develop appropriate pain management techniques, to perform preventive stretching and strengthening exercises, to develop postural awareness, to acquire proper workstation positioning and equipment, to pace activity, and to have patience during the recovery of these slow-healing injuries.
The authors take the reader through all the steps of the RSI process beginning with a risk assessment, symptoms checklist, and discussion of common examination and treatment procedures. They then outline treatment options, give advice on performing daily activities in less physically demanding ways, provide vision care and exercise guidelines, and discuss the emotional aspects of living with an RSI. Lastly, Dr. Pascarelli and Ms. Quilter outline prevention techniques through ergonomics, workstation set-up, and typing retraining.
Although the authors provide brief descriptions of a variety of injuries, this is not a medical text. Rather, it is a comprehensive, practical approach to a complex problem written in an easy format with quotes and drawings that enhance the information provided. Repetitive Strain Injuries – The Computer User’s Guide is a necessity for anyone who is trying to avoid injury or who is looking for more than a temporary, quick fix of medication or cortisone to alleviate their computer-related pain. It is a must-read for those with chronic pain who are willing to take charge of their own recovery rather than relying on the unreliable and possible ineffective medical and insurance systems for answers.
Repetitive Strain Injuries – A Computer User’s Guide is available at Amazon.com.
Dr. Pascarelli also wrote Dr. Pascarelli's Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury: What You Need to Know about RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Published in 2004, this book provides up-to-date information and advances in treatment theory on RSI diagnosis, treatment and prevention. This sequel is also available at Amazon.com.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy and Occupational Fitness Center of Santa Barbara. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.