A study published last month has been hailed as the first medical evidence of RSI – repetitive strain injury.
The study was conducted by physiotherapist Jane Greening and physiologist Bruce Lynn and was backed by the charity Action Research. Unlike previous studies, this one focused on the effect of small repetitive movements on the sensory nerves in the hand, not on the muscles or joints.
The study showed that RSI sufferers and office workers who did not complain of symptoms had reduced sensitivity in these nerves.
As well as identifying sufferers, this study could lead to a test to determine workers who are at risk.
It is not thought that this will effect insurance claims for RSI for a number of years, both income protection and PMI providers have paid out for RSI claims.
Unum confirmed that it has paid out income protection claims for RSI sufferers and will continue to do so in future.
Julie Blevins, a spokeswoman for BUPA said: “Some of our PMI policies covering out-patient treatment would pay for any physiotherapy that was recommended for acute RSL”
She added: “In long term chronic cases it would be possible to claim under a disability income protection plan.”
However Blevins said: “To pay out a claim we would have to need to have medical verification that the policyholder suffers from RSI and is either unable to perform their job or needs particular treatment to relieve the problem.”
She added: “Some of the claims that come in are a bit `woolly’ Just a few aches and pains are not going to be covered.”
As some doctors still remain sceptical about the existence of RSI, this may have prevented many sufferers from claiming on their medical insurance or seeking compensation from their employer.
In October 1993 a judge dismissed it as “meaningless” and said it “had no place in the medical dictionary” although there have since been substantial compensation awards.
Five part-time staff are currently bringing a test case against Midland Bank for injuries caused by “diffuse” RSI where the injuries are difficult to pin down.
A spokesman for the RSI Association welcomed this latest research. The director, Peter Killbride said: “While we have known for many years that RSI is a real condition, it has been hard to prove to some people.”
He added: “It is an invisible illness as far as the public is concerned – indeed many of our members have found doctors sceptical about the pain and suffering they are going through.”