Discover how to prevent repetitive strain injury in our modern computer culture.
Repetitive strain injuries are nothing new – in fact, Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini is accredited with describing at least different 20 types of RSI in the 1700s. However, as more people find themselves sitting at a screen for hours at a time, working harder and faster in physically demanding jobs, or pushing themselves to improve sports performance, the chance for injury increases.
Nowadays, more and more people are faced with repetitive strain injury (RSI) due to mouse-related work. Caused by permanent tension, repetitive motions and an unnatural position of the arm and wrist, the symptoms range from numbness or tingling in the fingers to a pain extending to the shoulder.
Repetitive stress or strain can impact any part of the body, but injuries to fingers, hands, forearms, elbows, and shoulders are more common than injuries to lower extremities. Symptoms may range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Swelling, tenderness, and stiffness are common hallmarks of RSI, and some people notice tingling and numbness as well.
It's best to counter initial symptoms before they develop into a full-blown condition, so here are some tips on how to prevent RSI:
Change your position as much as possible and take regular breaks. Get up and walk around if you don't have to be at your desk (e.g., while talking on the phone or reading a printout).
When you sit, keep your back straight and your shoulders pulled back with your pelvis slightly tilted forward. If your muscles start hurting, relax your back and briefly rotate your shoulders. Avoid a hunched-over position.
Use a mouse that fits your hand and rest your hand when you're not using it. Keep your hand and wrist straight when clicking or typing. When possible, use a computer tablet and pen or switch to keyboard commands to avoid excessive mouse clicking.
If you are already suffering from symptoms, you can alleviate the pain by putting an ice or cold pack on the inflicted area. Wearing a wrist brace such as the Custom Dial Wrist Stabilizer or elbow support and using speech recognition software are also other options to try. Various relaxation methods, regular stretching exercises and massages might also help you get rid of the pain so you can concentrate on your work instead.
Depending on the requirements of your job, or the sports you enjoy, it can be difficult to completely avoid the repetitive movements that lead to RSI. It’s important to listen to your body; take time to stretch and break the cycle when you can; and support your joints with a wrap or brace to protect yourself.