Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury

businessman suffering from repetitive strain injury at work

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a condition that stems from repeatedly overusing areas of your body doing repetitive activities such clicking, typing, writing and walking.  Those who suffer from it understand how much of a problem RSI can be, as it affects your ability to carry out everyday tasks with full mobility and no pain.

However, with a little bit of thought and a few changes to lifestyle RSI can be easily prevented.

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Repetitive strain injury is medically defined as cumulative trauma disorder (CTD). It is a general term used to describe upper body pain caused by a repetitive movement or stress. The resulting injury can lead to muscle damage, tendon damage, as well as possible nerve damage. The most common places that you are likely to suffer RSI include: hands, forearms, wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders.

What are the Symptoms of RSI?

Symptoms of RSI can include:

  • Joint pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Throbbing
  • Aches
  • Cramp
  • Weakness
  • Possible swelling

Preventing RSI

One of the common causes of RSI is poor posture and bad habits when it comes to using keyboards, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.  With a few simple changes you can actively take measures to  prevent RSI. They include:

  • Typing in a neutral wrist position
  • Using a gel wrist pad
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Good posture
  • Proper chair support

Typing in a Neutral Position

When you type using a keyboard, your wrists should have a neutral position that is better for your joints. This position follows the movement of your arm, without bending your wrist to the side (ulnar or radial deviation) or bending your wrist toward you (dorsiflexion). One of the best ways to prevent these problems is to use an ergonomic keyboard, which supports the natural position of your wrist.

Use a Gel Wrist Pad

RSI is commonly found in the mouse hand of sufferers, the hand we usually use when using a computer mouse. Unfortunately, a computer mouse puts our hand in a dorsiflexion position. This is the same position that a high keyboard puts us in, with the hand pointing up towards the body. By using a gel wrist pad, you can lift your wrist to the same level as your hand thereby placing your wrist in a more natural position.

A common preventative measure for RSI is to simply take regular breaks. This means stopping any typing, clicking, or repetitive movements you tend to do through the day. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult measures to complete, as most people are very busy in their day. The best piece of advice for preventing RSI is to take a five-minute break, every half an hour. During this break, you should do something that is the opposite of the task you were just completing. For instance, if you work at a desk, you should get up and walk around. A useful way of reminding yourself to take a break is to set a reminder on your phone or laptop.

Retain Good Posture

An important thing to remember about RSI is that it tends to start because of bad habits. One very common bad habit is poor posture and slouching when sitting in front of a computer screen all day. To stave off future aches and pains, we advise that anyone who sits at a desk takes the time to set up their seating and workspace properly. For more information, we suggest reading the NHS guide on how to sit at a desk correctly.

Proper Chair Support

The easiest way to ensure that you sit at your desk correctly is to find a chair that supports you whilst you work. The best work chairs are those with a five-point base that are adjustable in almost every way, to ensure that you are at your most comfortable when sitting. The proper way to adjust your work chair is:

  • The seat should have a slight tilt to encourage proper posture
  • Your arms should rest comfortably on the arms of your chair with your shoulders relaxed – you can adjust the height accordingly
  • Your backrest should be tilted to around 10°
  • Feet should be flat on the floor with knees bent at a right angle (you may need a footrest)
  • A properly fitted chair should be 2 inches away from your knees when you are sitting (you should be able to adjust the back plate)
  • Arm rests should not be used if you find that you are resting your weight on them whilst you work.

You can also check out our blog for further advice on sitting correctly whilst working on a computer.

Repetitive Strain Injury is a problem that is growing in the UK, as more people work longer hours in front of computers without knowing the dangers of improper posture and body positioning. At Active Health Clinics, we have an expert team on hand to help relieve the symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries using a range of treatments such as Chiropractic and Massage.

For more information on how RSI can be prevented, you can either visit the National Repetitive Strain Injury Charity (NRSIC) or speak to a member of our team on 01628 828565.