Mouse arm or RSI? The history of a disease

The diagnosis of RSI – short for the English term "repetitive strain injury", which is a collective name for any ailment that is caused by repetitive, monotonous movements – is a modern phenomenon. Today, a pain in the arm can be the cause of thousands of sick day leaves per year, which turns it into a major problem not only for the affected person but for the economy as a whole. People who, after years of entering data, suffer from the typical symptoms are accepted as RSI victims, an approved occupational disease.

Although the common name of the disease – "Mouse arm syndrome" – gives that impression it is not the mouse alone that creates this ailment: Ever faster, ever more efficient, that goes for office work, too. An unfavourable working position as well as an un-ergonomic keyboard can lead to a mouse arm without the exertion of even one mouse click, and a person who spends hours, days, weeks or months writing by hand without taking the appropriate breaks or using ergonomic equipment will most likely end up being diagnosed with RSI, too.

A compact overview of the history of RSI will be provided by the essay „RSI oder Mausarm – ein Standard macht krank“ (PDF), written by Dr. Ahmet Cakir, member of the Berlin „Ergonomic Institute of Work and Social Research“.