(web links, email lists, publications, organizations)
Website last updated 2-6-2017
What is RSI?
Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) are a category of injuries to the soft tissue of the body caused by overuse or misuse. Soft tissue includes: tendons, ligaments, muscles, fascia, nerves and blood vessels. The parts of the body most often affected during office work and computer use are the neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers.
There is a long list of specific injuries* that are RSIs, including tendinitis, thoracic outlet syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. Often people have more than one RSI, and it can be difficult to accurately diagnose which specific RSI a person has. Symptoms of RSI include: tingling, numbness, pain, aching, swelling, and loss of strength and/or dexterity. Not everyone will have every symptom, nor is there a definite order in which people experience symptoms. Symptoms may not occur until several hours or even days after the activity which causes them. (Have you ever hiked a long way and not been really sore until the next day or two?) Pain is not always present in the beginning of an RSI, so do not wait until you are in pain to get treatment if you have other symptoms. These injuries, especially those aggravated by computer use, can become chronic, permanent, and very disabling.
Other names for repetitive strain injuries include: repetitive motion injury (RMI), repetitive motion disorder, cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), upper extremity musculo-skeletal disorder (MSD), occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) and overuse syndrome.
* carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical radiculopathy, computer vision syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, DeQuervain's disease, ganglion cysts, Guyon's canal syndrome - ulnar tunnel syndrome, lateral epicondylitis - tennis elbow, medial epicondylitis - golfer's elbow, myofascial pain syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, Raynaud's disease (Raynaud's syndrome), thoracic outlet syndrome, tendinitis (tendonitis), tendinosis, tenosynovitis, stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger, complex regional pain syndrome (reflex sympathetic dystrophy), fibromyalgia syndrome.
Support Meetings for Injured Workers and RSI Sufferers
These meetings are scheduled by appointment -- please call RSI Action at 617-247-6827 to set up a meeting. At these meetings, RSI Action volunteers answer questions and provide resources and support, including the opportunity to view our provider evaluation book, to people with RSIs or other workplace injuries. Discussion topics have included medical treatment, insurance/legal issues, and speech recognition software.
Provider Evaluation Book
RSI Action’s book of user evaluations of health-care and other providers may be viewed by appointment at the MassCOSH office in Dorchester; call 617-825-7233 extension 10. You may also view it during the Support Meetings for Injured Workers and RSI Sufferers. If you have an RSI or other injury, we invite you to contribute evaluations of providers you have used; see below.
We are an all-volunteer organization and welcome those who would like to contribute time and energy. Please contact us if you are interested.
We appreciate financial support for our work. Please make checks payable to MassCOSH with a notation that the funds are for RSI Action, and mail to the address below. Donations are tax-deductible.
We prefer phone calls at 617-247-6827; please leave your telephone number. You can e-mail us if you wish at info at rsiaction dot org. Because of spam problems, please put "RSI Action" in the subject line; these will be the only e-mails we respond to.
Our mailing address is the MassCOSH office, attention RSI Action, 1532B Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02122.
If you have a repetitive strain or other injury, we invite you to contribute your evaluations of providers you have used to RSI Action’s book of provider evaluations.
Use the medical provider form for anyone who provides a healing or related service such as a doctor, physical therapist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, tai chi teacher, etc. Please indicate on the form if a doctor you saw was for a so-called “independent medical examination” (IME) or workers compensation “impartial” examination, or was a company doctor. Use the lawyer form for providers of legal services on such matters as workers compensation, Social Security disability insurance and long-term disability insurance.
If your physical condition permits you to write, it is easiest to print the blank forms and mail them in. Filling them in electronically with a speech-recognition program works also. Use as much space as you need; feel free to continue on additional sheets.
Please send the completed forms to our mailing address above.
There are three types of disability insurance benefits that are in fact available to people with RSI in many circumstances.
• You can get Social Security disability insurance benefits by filing a claim directly with the Social Security Administration, and you will not necessarily need a lawyer, who will generally take one third of all of your Social Security checks. Be sure to include with your claim all relevant medical history, because no additional medical history will be allowed if you need to file an appeal of an initial denial.
• You can get worker's compensation by filing a "first report of injury" claim with your employer. If the employer's insurer denies your claim, you will generally want a lawyer to represent you in appealing the denial before a state worker's compensation judge.
• Because most large employers offer long-term disability insurance, you can get those benefits by filing a claim with the employer's insurer. Again, you will generally want a lawyer to represent you in appealing a denial in federal court. Note: It is advisable, if you can, to pay into your LTD plan with after tax dollars to avoid paying Federal tax on your LTD benefit checks.
Beware that some human resources representatives have been known to provide wrong information about your eligibility for any of these types of disability benefits, so it's best to file a claim anyway, or check with an employment lawyer. Beware also that employers sometimes blacklist jobseekers with previous disability claims. (See "Blacklisted After a Job Loss," https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/employee-rights-book/chapter10-9.html)
Disability resources, including do-it-yourself guides:
Typing Injury FAQ
A wide variety of information, links to resources, a broad description of assistive products to reduce injury risk and symptoms.
Paul Marxhausen’s RSI Information
Prevention information, with pictures, mpeg videos, books, and links to bookstores for easy ordering.
MIT’s RSI Information Page
Links to resources at MIT and elsewhere, plus some basic information.
Self Care for RSI, Sharon Butler’s web site.
Massachusetts state workers compensation site (Note: other states’ laws differ)
Sorehand - general email list for sufferers of RSI. This is a large high-volume mailing list about RSI; emails are frequent. There is a searchable online archive of past messages. To avoid being overwhelmed with emails, after you subscribe you can set options noted in the listserv commands section of the web site.
“Dr. Pascarelli's Complete Guide to
Repetitive Strain Injury: What You Need to Know About RSI and Carpal Tunnel
A 2004 update to his best-selling 1994 book “Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide.” Emil Pascarelli, M.D., is one of the world's leading experts on repetitive strain injury. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University in New York and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Public Health at Cornell University. He has published articles on RSI in top medical journals. List Price: $17.95. Paperback: 272 pages. Publisher: Wiley, June 2004. ISBN: 0471388432
“It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” by Suparna Damany and Jack Bellis
Suparna Damany is
a trained physical therapist with over 25 years of experience. For the
last 17 years, she has specialized in the treatment of chronic pain, repetitive
stress injuries and myofascial pain, at her clinic in Allentown,
Jack Bellis writes on his website “When a physical therapist performed tests on me that my surgeon didn’t — before or after the operation on my ulnar nerve — and my symptoms returned in a few weeks, I decided that someone had to tell the story. With my therapist, Suparna Damany, I’ve written a book on the subject, entitled ‘It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals.' In the book is what I learned about RSI, without embellishment or false promises, and with hard details--not just accolades--from other patients.” $19.95 list price. 234 pages. 2000. ISBN 0965510999.
“Hurt on the Job: A Guide to the Massachusetts Workers Compensation System” 2nd edition explains almost everything you need to know about what to expect from the Massachusetts workers compensation system and how to deal with it. The book also has a section on federal workers compensation. The 2007 book is available for $15 from Western MassCOSH, 640 Page Blvd., Suite 104, Springfield, MA 01104. Tel (413) 731-0760. ISBN 13: 978-0-615-15386-5. It is available as a PDF e-book.
Downloadable publications from the Mass Department of Public Health:
"Chronic Occupational Repetitive Strain Injury", by Barbara A. O’Neil, MD, et al., Can Fam Physician 2001;47:311-316, is a medical journal article that reviews the research on the causes and treatment of workplace RSIs and shows how overuse leads to RSI.
MassCOSH, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, brings together workers, unions, community groups, and health, safety and environmental activists to organize and advocate for safe, secure jobs and healthy communities throughout eastern and central Massachusetts. Through training, technical assistance and building community/labor alliances, MassCOSH mobilizes its members and develops leaders in the movement to end unsafe work conditions. RSI Action is a program of MassCOSH.
Western MassCOSH, 413-731-0760
A western Massachusetts advocacy group for workplace safety and workers hurt on the job. Call for more information about occasional meetings and available safety and training classes. Publishes the free Injured Workers Survival Guide, focused on western Massachusetts, but containing statewide and national resources.
Easter Seals MA operates the Assistive Technology Regional Center (ATRC-Boston). The Center, which is one of two in the state, has a device demonstration and loan program where people with impairments and other MA residents can explore hands-on hundreds of devices that can meet a variety of needs, including computers with Dragon Naturally Speaking. The center has a short-term loan program that allows you to take the equipment home and try it out for two to four weeks, and a low-interest cash loan program is available for purchasing the AT equipment.
The Assistive Technology Regional Center is located in Boston one block from South Station at 89 South St., 1st Floor. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30. Please call 617-226-2634 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment or tour.
Job Accommodation Network,
Job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities.
A service of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, providing consulting service on questions related to accommodation and to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
RSI Action believes that every computer user has the right to:
· Work without pain
· Reasonable workload
· Workers’ compensation system that works
· Adequate breaks from computer use (at least 15 minutes every 2 hours, or 10 minutes per hour of intensive typing)
· Job design with a variety of tasks
· Ergonomic workstation
· Ongoing ergonomic training
· Access to adaptive technologies & information
· Recovery from injury before returning to work at the same task
Copyright © RSI Action
We are an all-volunteer organization, and a program of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). We are the volunteer component of the former Coalition on New Office Technology (CNOT).
Since 1984, we have advocated for the health, safety and rights of workers, focusing largely but not exclusively on computer-related repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). Our mission has encompassed support and resources for injured and at-risk workers, organization of injured workers, training of individuals and organizations on ergonomics and RSI prevention, and advocacy for change in public policy and workplace practices.
We are the continuation of the nonprofit corporation that operated CNOT and ceased operation in spring 2002 due to funding issues in a difficult economic climate. Over the years we have employed several names in addition to RSI Action and CNOT for our various functions, including Office Technology Education Project (OTEP) and Technology Education Clearinghouse (TEC).
We are not medical providers. This website represents our best assessment from many years of experience by dozens of people suffering from RSI. Decisions about treatment should be made with your physician.