Repetitive Strain Injury, also known as RSI (as well as repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injury and repetitive motion disorder), is a condition where an individual begins to feel pain and stiffness in a joint as a result of repetitive movements. This is often the rest of working in a particular field which requires the same movements to be repeated over and over, such as for instance typing on a keyboard when working in an office.
This is a serious condition that can be very uncomfortable and that can interfere with ones career so it is important to understand the condition and to know how to combat it. Here we will look at how it can be avoided and treated.
Common Causes of RSI
RSI is not only caused by repetitive motion, but is generally considered ‘life without ergonomic care’. This umbrella term can also refer to powerful vibrations, or bad positioning, and there are many scenarios where it is common for these things to be a problem, including:
• Using a keyboard
• Using power tools
• Sleeping on a poor mattress
• Holding a phone incorrectly
• Sitting incorrectly
• Sleeping with the head forward
• Carrying items wrongly
• Computer games
From here the patient may develop RSI which will cause short bursts of sharp pain across several areas which worsens during the area. They may also experience weakness and lack of energy. It is distinct from carpal tunnel syndrome as the symptoms are diffuse rather than local – due to the vast network of nerves, muscles and tendons involved in any movement.
How to Beat Repetitive Strain Injury From a Keyboard
Typing is one of the biggest causes of RSI as it is a repetitive motion that a large proportion of use perform daily. This is something however which can be minimized by using the correct typing technique and the correct positioning, thereby minimizing the strain. To use a keyboard correctly:
• Keep the keyboard close to your lap
• Take regular breaks
• Invest in a good keyboard/mouse – rollerballs, trackpads and pointing sticks are great mouse-alternatives
• Keep your wrists up rather than resting them on the table or keyboard
• Don’t tilt the keyboard upright
• Swap your mouse and keyboard for new/different ones on occasion. This will slightly change the positioning and the muscles you are using from time to time thus limiting repetitive strain
You can also lessen the pain in your wrists by reducing friction by regularly stretching and exercising your wrists. Take it in turns to bend your wrist forward, backwards and sideways, and to bend your fingers gently back. To do all three quickly:
1. Link your fingers and turn your hands so that they are facing away from you – push gently.
2. Bend the top of each hand backwards with the fingers of your other hand, steadying the arm with your thumb against the back of your wrist.
3. Take the thumb of each hand and apply pressure gently pushing it to the inside of the forearm.
Regular breaks are also highly important and these will help to prevent back problems and eye strain.
Preventing/Beating Other Forms of RSI
It is possible to beat other forms of RSI by applying the same principles. Research for instance into what the best technique is for your repetitive activity and then try to ensure you maintain good form. Likewise take time out to rest from your activity in order to give your joints a chance to recover, and try to mix up and vary your movements – even if only slightly in order to limit the strain. If you notice pain developing in the area, then speak to your employer and take some time off in which to recover.
Usually once RSI has set in it will resolve itself spontaneously after rest. Without giving the area time to rest however, it is possible for the symptoms to persist for months or even years. To help to improve posture, support joints and muscles, and allow rest, many people will choose to use supports for their joints which strap around their wrist/ankle/knee much like sports supports.