RSI - it’s all about cannon balls on pogo sticks

RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury - was the discussion theme at the 11 November branch meeting, with Tim Gopsill (Editor of The Journalist) and Bunny Martin (Health Consultant) speaking.

First Tim explained how important it is for today's writers to have the right equipment, to avoid muscular and skeletal disorders. "Freelances are their own worst enemies," he explained. "Whilst employed staff are subject to all sorts of Health & Safety rules, which they are compelled to adhere to, if you go it alone, you tend to cut corners. But you must look after yourself!" he said. Low cost, wobbly computer stands are a definite no-no, as are desks of the wrong height, and lengthy monitor work should be interrupted by regular breaks during which you should get up and move your body.

To give help and advice in this context, the NUJ has published detailed information, including the on-line brochure RSI - it can be prevented which can be downloaded from

The practical part of the presentation was handled by Bunny, who explained that the human body was not really designed to sit at a desk for hours on end. Your big, heavy head (cannon ball) is stuck on top of a thin spine (pogo stick) - with a few muscles to keep it moving up, down or sideways, when reading and typing. In fact, 97 muscles are active when typing. RSI is a creeping disease, Bunny said.

"You have to listen to whispering pain when it starts, and not brush it aside, because if you ignore the signals (twinges, numbness) RSI can hit you apparently out of the blue" she explained. Once RSI has struck, there's actually very little practical help available. When nobody seems to understand and your doctor advises to give up your job - great! So freelances have to rely on themselves and, having bought a desk and chair of the correct height, make sure their posture is right, too.

"You can sit well on an orange box or badly on a £700 office chair" Bunny pointed out. Sitting upright on your "sitting bones" is the secret, and if your seat or backrest is not giving you the right support, there are countless wedge-shaped cushions and back supports to help you sit straight. Plus for all those who find all this information too complex, Bunny will come and give on-site advice to companies and, at a specially discounted rate, to NUJ freelances.

  • Contact Bunny Martin at Back-to-Back, 020 8767 2056. (And if you want to give up smoking, Bunny and her partners might be able to help too.)
  • To download RSI - it can be prevented from, go to "Advanced Search" and key in "RSI"). Alternatively, contact Tim Gopsill on 020 7843 3701 or e-mail him at
  • Two of the many suppliers of ergonomic equipment and backrests are Posturite, tel. 01323 847 777 or fax 01323 847799 ( and the Mobils Healthcare Group (formerly known as Procare/Medisport) tel. 0161 678 0233 (
Last modified: 20 November 2002 - © 2002 contributors
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