Researchers from Temple University are demonstrating that repetitive stress injury (RSI) happens earlier than anticipated, in unexpected ways. As explained in this press release, experiments on rats revealed malaise and fatigue long before focal neuro deficits:
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. “At three weeks, even before the rats experienced pain from their wrist injuries, we watched them self-regulate their work behavior,” said Barr. “With inflammatory proteins in the bloodstream, they began to slack off from completing their tasks.”
By five weeks to eight weeks, when cytokine production reached “peak” levels, some rats curled up in a ball and slept in between tasks.
If this is true, it suggests a bleak downward spiral: the employees that request special keyboards and chairs and are already pegged as underachievers by the boss.
More from Dr. Barbe’s site…