Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) can occur when you repeatedly carry out the same movement (such as clicking on a computer mouse or texting on a mobile phone.)
Usually, RSI is related to work but it can also affect people with hobbies that involve repetitive movements. (It can even affect children through continual use of computer games and portable game stations so it’s important to limit the time they play without a break.)
RSI is a very painful problem and usually involves the upper limbs – affecting your muscles, soft tissue and tendons. It differs from a sudden injury because it is caused by long-term strain on the muscles and that means it can cause problems for much longer.
The Main Areas of the Body Affected by RSI are:
- Upper and lower back
- Upper arms
- Fingers and thumbs
The hands are commonly affected and symptoms can include
- Numbness Tingling Coldness Loss of feeling
However, you can be affected if you have any job that involves repeating the same movements very often – for example, a chef or cook who spends much of the day cutting vegetables or even an engineer who uses a screwdriver for long periods.
It is much easier to prevent RSI than it is to cure the condition so if you work in a job which puts you at risk, you should:
- Warm up and cool down your muscles before and after work Make sure your workstation is comfortable and that you can reach everything easily Check your posture – your back and head should be in a straight line Don’t hunch your shoulders Try to avoid staying in the same position for extended periods of time Try not to tense your muscles. If this a problem, practice relaxation techniques Have regular breaks – especially if you feel any pain or discomfort Think about using an alarm or reminder to keep track of how long you have been carrying out the movement
Following a healthy lifestyle can actually reduce the risk of damage so make sure you drink plenty of water and get enough sleep because this will improve your strength. It’s also a good idea to regularly carry out simple aerobic routines or relaxation techniques.
Qigong is a very useful technique to help relax your body, especially the neck and shoulders. It is a slow routine based around your breathing and experts say that is helps to keep a good blood flow throughout the body.
Many RSI victims have worked for long periods at a computer or in a desk-based job. If this is you, then think about investing in a wrist mat which will allow you to rest your hands comfortably when typing.
It’s easy to become stressed at work especially if you have deadlines to meet so make sure that you are not gripping the mouse too tightly because this creates tension in the hands and fingers. A gel mouse mat is a good idea.
When typing, don’t hit the keys too hard and if you spend long periods at a desk, try to keep your legs underneath you and flat on the floor. (Having them stretched out in front of you puts strain on your back and also leads to slouching.)
There are a variety of treatments which can help to reduce RSI pain. Your doctor will be able to provide advice on the options but they include:
- Anti inflammatory drugs
- Wrist supports or splints
- Heat packs/cold packs
Most importantly, do not underestimate the effect that RSI can have on your life – and your career. Some people badly affected by RSI are completely unable to continue in their previous job.
They can get relief from their symptoms but are no longer able to undertake repetitive tasks without suffering another flare-up of the condition. It can be extremely debilitating and can affect your ability to undertake basic daily tasks such as turning on a tap.