RSI research finds nerve link

HSE-commissioned research to fond association between RSI and abnormalities
in the sensory nerves of the arm

There is a link between repetitive strain injury (RSI) and abnormalities in
the way sensory nerves work in the arm, says HSE-commissioned research.

Scientists at University College London examined the hands of 45 patients
with RSI and 40 office workers, whose results were compared with those from a
control population of 44 people.

They looked at three specific areas: the ability to detect a vibration
stimulus at the finger tips, the ability of the skin to respond to small
injuries and the reduction in blood flow to the skin following exposure to

Vibration perception thresholds were up by 45 per cent in RSI patients and
by 21 per cent for office workers, which showed these groups were less
sensitive to vibration.

The flare response after small injuries showed comparable reductions – 33
per cent for patients and 30 per cent in office workers. The intensity of flare
response was 43 per cent for patients and 41 per cent for office workers.

In the third test, on the constriction of blood vessels, the reduction in
blood flow was 20 per cent greater in patients compared with the control group.

Imaging techniques were also used to look at changes in the way the median
nerve moved inside the carpal tunnel – where the nerve passes between the bones
of the wrist – when the wrist was bent.

When ultrasound imaging was used, four out of 10 office workers showed only
small or reversed nerve movement, a pattern seen more often in patients.

Ron McCaig of HSE said: "This research found that there is evidence of
a modest loss in peripheral nerve function in RSI patients and that office
workers who do a lot of keyboard work demonstrate similar but not as marked effects."

Sensory and Autonomic Function and Ultrasound Nerve Imaging in RSI Patients
and Keyboard Workers, can be bought for £10 from the HSE: 01787-881165.

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