Repetetive Strain Injuries
Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI’s) is the name given to the damage we do to our musculoskeletal and nervous systems by frequent repetition of tasks requiring fine motor skills.
Although not specific to computer and device use, RSI’s are widespread among people who spend much of the day typing, mousing and texting. Types of RSIs that affect computer users may include non-specific arm pain or work related upper limb disorder (WRULD).
Symptoms include aching wrists, tingling fingers, weakness in the hands, sore shoulders and neck.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one common example of an RSI. Texting thumb is another.
RSI’s are also known as cumulative trauma disorders. As the names imply, the damage to the body is caused on a cumulative basis.
Repetition, duration, force and poor posture involved in executing the task are all risk factors:
- Repetition is how many times per hour the task is performed.
- Duration is how many hours without a break, and how many hours per day total.
- Force refers to the force on your muscles due to positioning and effort.
Left unchecked, RSI’s can cause an inability to work. They are a major cause of injury complaints against employers.
Symptoms include aching wrists, tingling fingers, weakness in the hands, sore shoulders and neck. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one common example of an RSI.
How to Prevent RSI’s
- Use a light touch when typing. Don’t pound the keys. Remember that force is a risk factor too.
- Stretch your shoulders, neck, arms and wrists frequently.
- Consider using an ergonomic mouse. I love mine. It made my wrist pain go away.
- Consider using a split ergonomic keyboard. Correct alignment of the arms and wrists results in less strain on muscles, nerves, and sensitive joints.
- Use alternatives to typing when possible. Dictation software is a wonderful way to give your arms and hands a break.
- Vary your activities during the day so that you are never typing for too long without a break. Two hours is generally considered too long. One hour may be too long for you.
- Avoid texting on your phone. Use dictation software or text from your computer where more more postural alternatives exist (i.e. ergonomic mouse)
- Take frequent breaks.
- Increase your body awareness.
Early awareness is everything.
Look for signs before your body starts screaming for your attention. Vague sensitivities or low grade discomfort are your cue to make small changes that can prevent a full blown injury. If your upper limbs are speaking to you, now is the time to make a change.