“The best advice I could give to anyone with newly diagnosed RSI is to make sure you have a good doctor one who is prepared to understand your condition and help 100%. If not, find someone else.” – Robyn
Qualities to look for
The ideal doctor for someone with an overuse injury would be:
- knowledgeable about overuse injuries
- experienced in treating overuse injuries
- willing to discuss treatment options
- well-connected with specialists
- a good listener
- available when you need them
- able to give you time to discuss the condition
- able to understand your working conditions
- willing to write reports for your insurer
- able to deal assertively with your insurance company.
Naturally, very few doctors will have all of the above qualities; however, think about what’s really important to you and choose accordingly. You may decide to stay with your GP or you can ask your GP to refer you to someone who specialises in RSI, perhaps another GP or a specialist. If you are choosing a new doctor, you should ask:
- Do you have any experience in treating overuse injuries?
- Are you willing to deal with my insurance company?
You may feel when you try out doctors to deal with your overuse injury that you’re “doctor-shopping”. However, this is an entirely logical and reasonable thing to do – your health is important and you need to find the best treatment for your injury. Because there is no treatment for RSI that is based on good evidence, your doctor will have to try out different treatments to see what will work for you. There is no magic bullet. However you should expect your doctor to be well informed and to keep up with research on RSI.
Your relationship with your doctor is vital to your effective treatment. That means the way you feel about that relationship is equally vital. If you are not comfortable with the doctor or believe that he or she is not sufficiently caring about your condition, then you should try another doctor. If you feel rushed or intimidated while you are talking to your doctor, then you are unlikely to be able to communicate your symptoms effectively or ask important questions. You need to feel at ease with your doctor.
Because RSI can affect neck, shoulder, forearm, and hand, as well as bone, nerve and muscle, it can be hard to choose a specialist. Among your choices are:
- Neurologists (the nervous system).
- Rheumatologists (muscles and joints).
- Occupational physicians (work-related injuries); and
- Sports medicine specialists.
Although sports medicine specialists are often very experienced in treating overuse injuries in athletes, their patients are generally fit and in top physical condition. You might not respond to treatment in the same way or have the same amount of control over your exposure to further injury.
Will your doctor be your advocate?
People with an overuse injury need a doctor who will be available for them through what is likely to be a protracted period of treatment and is willing to provide relevant evidence and reports, if they are required. Your doctor may need to provide frequent medical reports to people and organisations such as your employer, insurance company, rehabilitation provider and solicitor. Centrelink may also be involved. Your doctor needs to be willing to respond to all of those demands and also be prepared to act as your advocate in negotiations about any work-place redesign to assist in your return to work. If you have a worker’s compensation case, your doctor will need to understand the worker’s compensation system, be willing to be your advocate and be able to resist pressure.
Should you see a psychologist or psychiatrist?
Sometimes your insurer will refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or your doctor may suggest this. You may feel that these specialists will look for a psychological cause for your injury, but this is not necessarily so. Some psychologists/ psychiatrists are experts in pain management and can help you to successfully deal with the very real pain you are experiencing. Depression is also a very common consequence of overuse injury, which can be effectively treated by a psychologist. They may also be able to explore with you ways of coping with your injury, dealing with the grief and emotional effects of your disability and moving on with your life.
Your partnership with your doctor
Educate yourself about your condition and possible treatment options. Ways to do this include reading as much about your condition as you can, talking to other people with OOS and using the internet.
Research shows that if people who are suffering from a chronic illness take an active part in the management of their condition, their health improves.
An excellent source of information about the effectiveness of treatments is the Cochrane Collaboration, an association involving thousands of researchers, medical practitioners and consumers from around the globe.
For more information, or to find some easy-to-read information about your own healthcare options, visit the Cochrane Database via the website: www.cochrane.org.au and for summaries with an Australian slant: www.healthinsite.gov.au. We can also provide extensive information about RSI to members.
Keep a file containing your personal medical information. It should contain copies of reports and tests and a record of medications taken (especially if they had any ill effects). Many doctors actively encourage patients to keep such records to help foster the idea that caring for your health is a responsibility that you share with your doctor.
If you are seeing a new doctor, prepare a written summary of your medical history and take it with you on your first visit. Ideally it should be no more than one page and be in outline form. Have two copies, one for the doctor and one for your file at home. Without this sort of preparation, you could easily forget to mention something quite important.
For lots of information on treatment options, complementary therapies and personal stories, order the latest edition of our book, “RSI: A Self-Help Guide“.
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