If your work involves sitting at a work desk for 8 hours or more a day, you probably suffer from chronic aches and pains. The cause for such pain is called repetitive strain injury (RSI). This condition is characterized by a build-up of damage to your muscles, tendons, and nerves. In this guide, you will learn about the effective ways of preventing repetitive strain injuries and why it’s essential not to ignore them.
What is Repetitive Strain Injury?
Repetitive strain injury is a common yet potentially debilitating condition associated with performing repetitive tasks regularly. These tasks typically involve the hands and affect key muscle groups in your hands and shoulders and tissues and nerves in your fingers.
The condition also commonly affects individuals who work on a computer all day performing tasks such as typing, clicking a mouse, and swiping. It is not unique to individuals who work on a computer though. Repetitive strain injury can also affect athletes who repeatedly train and perform similar actions over a given period of time. A few examples of repetitive strain injury include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and rotator cuff tendonitis.
Repetitive strain injury typically manifests in the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, and shoulders. It is accompanied by various symptoms like pain (mild to severe), nerve sensitivity, tingling sensation, swelling, tenderness, and throbbing in the affected area/s.
5 Tips for Preventing Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injury can be potentially debilitating if left unaddressed after some time. It is crucial to seek the advice of a medical practitioner about your condition if you suffer any of the above symptoms.
Preventing repetitive strain injuries must also be a top priority. It starts by practicing good habits and proper posture, especially among those who sit on a computer all day long. Here are some preventive steps that you can take to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
1. Good posture is a must.
Good posture is when your body is positioned naturally to reduce the amount of strain on your body. How do you know if you have poor posture at work? It’s when you feel any pain and soreness in your neck, shoulders, and lower back at the end of the workday. If your muscles feel tight, you must correct your posture while working.
Every person is unique. Therefore, you must listen to your body. If you feel any pain, you need to adjust your position to achieve proper alignment. Be open to changing your position from time to time.
2. Set up an ergonomic workstation.
A good posture is just one way of preventing repetitive strain injury. You need to make your workspace as ergonomic as possible too. For those who work at a desk, three areas in your workstation require special attention: the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
The monitor must be directly in front of you, instead of at an angle. Meanwhile, your eye level must be 20% from the top of the monitor. Keep the monitor 15 to 25 inches away from your eyes.
Position the keyboard with both elbows on both sides of the keyboard.
The keyboard must be positioned so that your elbows maintain a 90-degree angle. Anything more than that, and your elbows will quickly get tired.
Place the mouse on one side of the keyboard. It must be easy to reach, and you do not have to lean or stretch to use it.
There are plenty of ergonomic work desks and accessories to invest in if you want to minimize the strain from working on your computer. These are good investments and can encourage correct posture while working.
Sit-and-stand desks and standing desks are also common these days. You can invest in those too if you want to promote office ergonomics as part of preventing repetitive strain injuries.
3. Observe proper technique.
Once you have your ergonomic workstation set up, the next thing you have to do is observe proper technique when using your desk. It’s not just the tools you have, but how you use them that matters.
Whether you are typing or browsing on your computer, always keep your wrists straight. When the wrists are straight, there is less strain on your nerves and tendons. The use of a split keyboard is one way that you can promote straightening your wrists while at work.
You must also hover your hands over the keys as you are typing. This is contradictory to the tips that you commonly hear to leave your hands and wrists on the keyboard. However, hovering your hands above the keyboard engages the big muscles on your back so that your hands are not doing all the work. Maintaining this position while you type also straightens your wrist and eliminates the need to stretch when reaching for certain keys.
Avoid straining your fingers by using a light touch when typing on the keys. Also, if you need to press a combination key, always use two hands rather than one. Lastly, try to be more efficient when typing to eliminate the need for unnecessary editing or re-typing.
4. Stretch and exercise regularly.
Stretching is one of the best ways to prevent repetitive strain injuries. You need to stretch your body every half hour or so. Again, listen to your body.
You can do a wall stretch where you extend your arm onto a wall parallel to the ground. This stretch will open up your chest and stretch your arms and shoulders. Repeat the same stretch on the opposite arm.
You can also do a doorway stretch where you stand with your elbow at a right angle, pressed against the door frame. Lunge your body forward and hold that position for 30 seconds. Doing this stretch will eliminate strain on your shoulders and chest.
Try to incorporate some neck stretching and breathing exercises too.
5. Take frequent breaks.
If you start to feel sore or have eye strain, use this as a reminder to get up and take a break. Take as many breaks as you need. A 5 to 10-minute break can rejuvenate your body and eliminate any strain you are feeling on your muscles and tendons.
Those who have desk jobs are at the highest risk of developing this condition. Follow the tips for preventing repetitive strain injury listed above to relieve the pain and stress caused to your body by the repetitive tasks required as part of your job. Invest in tools and accessories that can help eliminate the strain on certain parts of your body which will allow you to focus on being productive.