How to treat and prevent Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

We come across Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) in almost every workplace that we visit. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy found that around 450,000 UK workers have upper limb RSI. RSI is often triggered by day to day tasks, so we’ve put together this guide to help you identify some bad habits that might be making the problem worse, how to ease the symptoms and tips on how to prevent RSI going forward.

What is RSI

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an umbrella term for pain felt in the tendons, muscles and nerves. Usually caused by repetitive movement and overuse, it most commonly affects the upper body including the wrists, hands, forearms, elbows, neck and shoulders.

RSI symptoms

Not to be confused with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) caused by pressure on the median nerve in your wrist, RSI can present itself with a range of different symptoms:

  • Dull aches or pain
  • Tingling and/or numbness
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Cramp
  • Throbbing

RSI prevention at work

You might think that getting RSI in a sedentary office job would be quite difficult, but we’ve identified some common bad habits that often lead to RSI.

Identify the problem

Small movements such as repetitively copying and pasting from a document might not seem like an obvious contributor to RSI, but if you consciously tot up how much you’re hovering and moving your arm throughout your working week, you might be surprised how it all adds up. By identifying the cause, you can formulate an action plan to reduce the risk of prolonged pain from your RSI.

  • Do you have a role that requires a lot of mouse work? Are you moving your mouse arm repetitively?
  • Are you sitting correctly, or are you sitting too low down and reaching up to your keyboard?
  • Have you adjusted your chair and your workstation? Make sure you know how to adjust your chair properly
  • Can you attribute the problem to your workstation or is there something contributing to it outside of work?

Keep your input devices within the width of your shoulders

In the case of office workers, we would suggest any input devices such as keyboards and mice are positioned within the width of your shoulders to prevent over-reaching.  This is particularly difficult to do if you don’t have the right equipment. If you don’t use your keyboard’s keypad religiously then is there any need for it? Why not swap to a compact keyboard so that you can keep your arms close to your body.

We also see that this is particularly difficult to achieve for petite staff members that sit in chairs that are too big for them, as they tend to overreach for the armrests, resting their shoulders in unnatural positions. Try to adjust the arms on your chair and bring them as close to your body as possible.

How you use your mouse at work

We often see RSI aggravated further by people overreaching for the mouse and carrying out repetitive tasks. To ease your symptoms, we would recommend an ergonomic mouse to keep your wrist at a natural ‘handshake’ angle. If you use your mouse constantly (for example a designer that spends all day on the Adobe suite) then we would try and prevent repetitive movement with a roller bar mouse. This will prevent movement in the arm all the way through to the shoulder.

With a Rollerbar mouse, your palms rest on the padded section and you use the tips of your finger to move the mouse, and depress the roller bar to click. The added benefit of using a RollerMouse is that you can use the fingers on your left or right hand to use the mouse meaning that you can rest the side that you are experiencing RSI.

If the RollerMouse isn’t for you a UniMouse might be a good option. It’s not too different to a regular mouse that you’re probably used to but it still keeps your wrist in the natural handshake position.

Maintain an open employee/employer dialogue

As employers, we have several health and safety laws to abide by to make sure that we are taking care of our employees. If you are struggling with RSI, it’s better to deal with it sooner rather than later and log it with your line manager or person that takes care of DSE in house.

If you need more advice on how to manage RSI, please leave us a message below and we will get back to you shortly, or give us a call on 0330 332 0880.

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