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5 Ways to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injury

07 July 2023

It is often believed that workers in the office are safe as they are not involved in physically demanding work such as lifting heavy weights. Moreover, they aren't exposed to dangerous chemicals that can have life-threatening implications.

But did you know that even office workers, who work in near-ideal working conditions, experience hidden dangers from their work environment that can potentially impact their health over time?

Yes, that's true.

Working at a desk has negative health implications that may result from discomfort to health conditions requiring lengthy treatment and time off from work. And repetitive stress injury (RSI) is one of them.

RSI is one of the most common workplace injuries of modern times that is a result of repetitive movements such as those involved in computer use. The condition affects around 60% of the workforce. One in every eight employees with a desk job is diagnosed with the condition at some point during their career associated with a desk job. And while the condition may not be life-threatening, it can severely affect a person's quality of life and require treatment.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this potentially debilitating condition, which we look at in this post.

In what follows, we share an insight into what is repetitive stress injury (RSI) and how we can prevent the condition.

What is Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)?

A repetitive stress injury, also known as a repetitive strain injury, is a workplace-associated condition that is a result of repetitive movements of the hands, forearm, and wrists.

The repetitive motion leads to irritation of the nerves that travel from your forearm to your hand and over time leads to injury. If not treated well in time, the constant repetitive motion and persistent injury that leads to irritation of the nerves results in nerve degeneration.

The symptoms of the condition depend on the repetitive motion and the potential impact areas on nerves and can range from pain and discomfort to tingling and numbness. When the condition worsens, it also leads to a feeling of weakness in the fingers and hand that affects a person's ability to perform everyday functions involving using fingers and hands, such as typing and lifting objects.

Symptoms of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)

RSI leads to the inflammation of the nerves and hence results in pain and discomfort. Moreover, it also causes inflammation of the joints, which leads to stiffness and difficulty in performing everyday tasks.

Since the condition affects your wrist and hands and forearms, and elbows along with your neck and shoulders, you may experience the following symptoms.

Pain and discomfort, ranging from mild to severe

Stiffness and swelling of your joints,

Tingling or numbness in the hand, wrist, and hands,

Tenderness,

Sensitivity to cold and heat,

Muscle weakness and cramps.

The symptoms of the condition may be mild initially; however, over time, these symptoms can become more intense and persistent.

Without appropriate treatment, if you continue to perform the day-to-day activities that require repetitive movement, you may experience a gradual worsening of your symptoms.

How to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injury?

The only way to completely eliminate the risk of repetitive stress injury is to avoid the use of equipment that poses a risk. However, since it's not a practical solution, we need to look at some of the practical alternatives that can help prevent RSI.

Fortunately, there are ways to lower your risk of developing RSI and protect yourself from this painful condition.

Here are X ways to prevent repetitive stress injury when you have a desk job.



1. Use Keyboard with a Neutral Wrist Position

Since most desk jobs involve working on a screen, using a keyboard and mouse is inevitable. However, inappropriate use of a keyboard and mouse is the leading cause of discomfort while typing, eventually leading to repetitive stress injuries.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage the risk of this painful health condition, and one of them is to type using a neutral hand position.

The position is achieved with the keyboard placed below the elbow height. Moreover, the keyboard's base is gently sloped away from the user. Furthermore, the thumb is in line with the forearm, and the wrist is slightly bent.

Another important thing you should remember when maintaining a neutral typing position is that you don't have to bend your wrist towards your little finger. Moreover, the wrist shouldn't also bend towards your thumb.

Working on the keyboard in any position other than the neutral position can lead to strain on your wrist, hands, and forearms which eventually increases your risk of repetitive stress injury.

Most desks do not allow for the placement of a neutral wrist position which is why RSI is a common condition affecting individuals with a desk job. However, if your desk doesn't allow for the ergonomic placement of the keyboard, you can consider investing in KT2B Clamp-on Adjustable Keyboard Tray by FlexiSpot. The basic workplace accessory allows you to appropriately place your keyboard, leaving a lot of space on your workstation. But more importantly, it provides the best positioning of your wrists and arms while you work on the keyboard, which positively contributes to lowering your risk of repetitive stress injury whether you are sitting or standing.

The easy-to-attach and user-friendly keyboard tray slides in and out conveniently and makes a great investment that serves you just right.



2. Beware of the Mouse!

Many individuals with a desk job develop the condition due to inappropriate use of the mouse. When using a mouse, make sure you maintain a neutral position (similar to when using the keyboard).

Moreover, you should also invest in a good quality wrist pad from a reputable manufacturer that can help you maintain your wrist in an appropriate position while using the mouse.

For some individuals, switching the mouse hand also helps reduce the risk of RSI; however, it takes a lot of time for people with desk jobs to become ambidextrous with the use of the mouse.



3. Schedule Regular Breaks

One of the best ways to prevent repetitive stress injury is to schedule regular breaks.

And while it's the most relevant piece of advice, it's often the most difficult to practice at work. While people with a desk job know that they need to take a break once every 30 minutes, it's common to lose track of time once they start working. Hence, they spend a lot more time in the same position, which increases their risk of many posture-related concerns, including repetitive stress injury.

Yet, scheduling regular breaks remains the most effective way to prevent repetitive stress injury. It's recommended that you take 5 minutes every 30 minutes of continuous activity to provide adequate rest to your hands, wrists, and forearms.

Another important piece of advice to remember is that when you take a break, don't just sit at your desk. Instead, get up and take a quick walk before you resume your activities.



4. Maintain an Upright Posture

A key to staying healthy is taking care of your posture. And most people with a desk job tend to forget it. They believe that since they are sitting, their body is rested; however, that's not true. If you do not maintain an upright posture and slouch at your desk, you are doing more damage to your body than you can even imagine.

Slouching and maintaining a poor posture can lead to several musculoskeletal concerns and is also a leading factor that contributes to RSI. Hence, it's critical that you adjust your seat's height and depth so you can maintain an upright posture, particularly when you are using the keyboard.

Apart from adjusting your seat, don't forget to rearrange the placement of your monitor and lighting at your workstation, as it also contributes positively to maintaining an upright posture.



5. Eat Right and Get Some Stretching

Again, it might not be something that you aren't aware of, but most people tend to discount the significance of eating healthy and getting some physical activity.

Eating right becomes even more important if you have a desk job because you tend to spend most of your workday in a sitting position, which can affect your metabolism and lead to obesity and several other health concerns. Make sure you consume a balanced diet that is rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins and low in carbs and fats so you can maintain a healthy weight and a healthy body.

The other critical aspect of maintaining good health is physical activity. While you need to incorporate cardio exercises like a brisk walk and swimming to stay fit and healthy, you also need to do some stretching to strengthen your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. While you are working at your desk and it's time to take a break, stretch your arms and fingers multiple times during the day, as it serves as a great way to keep your hands and wrists healthy and prevent RSI.

Final Words

RSI is a common health condition associated with the modern-day work setting, and while it isn't a life-threatening condition, it can severely affect a person's quality of life which is why it is important to know how you can prevent it. With these five ways in mind, you can prevent repetitive stress injury and lower the risk of developing this debilitating health condition.