Repetitive strain could turn workers into slackers


— 10:56 AM on October 27, 2005

Has spending too many hours at the keyboard turned you into a slacker? You could be experiencing early symptoms of repetitive strain injury, well before serious pain sets in, according to the results of a recent study:

They discovered that nerve injuries caused by low-force, highly repetitive work can be blamed on an onslaught of cytokines -- proteins that help start inflammation. These cytokines, known also to spark symptoms of malaise, appear in injured nerves as early as three weeks after the first signs of cell stress -- much earlier than previously believed. As the nerve injury progressed, ever greater numbers of cytokines were made at the injury site.

Unexpectedly, the researchers also found that the cytokines affected the rats' psychosocial responses. With so many cytokines entering the blood stream so early, some apparently traveled to the brain, sparking the rat version of "sick-worker" syndrome.

The rats in the study ended up slacking off, sleeping too much, and generally acting like college students. Heh. But I do think they're on to something here. I've dealt with repetitive strain problems for years, especially after cranking out graph-laden articles like this one, and I've noticed bouts of similar symptoms after the worst crunch times. (Of course, the multiple 16-hour days strung together probably didn't help matters.) Fortunately, doing TR full time allows me to take half a day and recover when needed. I'd imagine that sitting at a desk for nine hours a day in a cubicle would complicate things quite a bit.
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