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Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
Jul 02, 2021
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In this challenging economic climate, there is a greater emphasis than ever on decreasing health care and employee salaries as you attempt to safeguard your workforce while simultaneously enhancing profitability. One of the best examples of how to make a significant difference is through ergonomics initiatives, which, when done correctly, can prevent substantial injuries and suffering.

Working in an office frequently entails doing repetitive movements and spending long periods in awkward or unpleasant positions. These behaviors and others related to office employees' regular tasks put you at risk of acquiring Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Repetitive strain injuries are one of the most common workplace health issues. The technological advances we use at work today are mainly responsible for the occurrence of these injuries. Still, you and your team can minimize risk and reduce injury from repetitive strain injuries by following simple office ergonomics suggestions.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is the name used to explain pain in the nerves, muscles, and tendons caused by repeated movements and overuse. RSI can affect practically any moveable body part, but it is most commonly found in the upper limbs, specifically the neck, forearms, hands, and shoulders. A repetitive strain injury does not focus on a specific condition but instead on the discomfort felt in the areas mentioned above due to repetitive actions and overuse.

The repetitive movement can cause overuse discomforts we do each day on the phone, computer, or anywhere in the office. There's a high possibility you're spending a lot of that time writing, reaching for and clicking your mouse, typing, or gazing at a computer monitor. These are all necessary actions while using a computer regularly, and we frequently engage those very same muscles even if we're not working by texting and using our desktop computers. These muscles are subjected to recurrent damage daily with minimal rest. This can cause strain and small tears in the forearms, wrists, and fingers' tendons and ligaments.

This can result in tension and minor tears in the ligaments and tendons of the wrists, fingers, and forearms, as well as limited range of motion and swelling, which can cause symptoms such as:

  • Tenderness
  • Pain that ranges from mild to severe
  • Swelling
  • Tightness, stiffness, cramping, or soreness in the muscles
  • Swelling becoming white or chilly
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Loss of coordination or clumsiness
  • Throbbing
  • Cold or heat sensitivity
  • Weakness

At-Risk

A repetitive strain injury can be caused by any specific task requiring repetitive movements or functioning in fixed or uncomfortable positions for long periods. The four particularly vulnerable occupations are:

  • Work in the office (typing and clerical duties)
  • Work in sections (sewing)
  • Manual labor (bricklaying and carpentry)
  • Work in process (assembly line and packing duties)

Surprisingly, current research suggests that characteristics such as job satisfaction may influence the beginning of repetitive motion injuries. People under a lot of mental work stress are more prone to get repetitive motion injuries and those who are not under a lot of stress.

Prevention

You can start making changes of your own and alleviate your symptoms. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle or have other medical problems such as diabetes or arthritis, you may already be at a higher risk. It may be tough to remove these habits if your job is the source of the problem, but you can lower your risk by considering proper ergonomics.

At home:

  • Limiting smartphone and texting use
  • Spending less time on your computer
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Being aware of your driving posture
  • Stretching or yoga

At the office:

  • TAKE BREAKS: Make the most of quick breaks away from your desks, such as a trip to the water fountain and photocopying, by incorporating a short stretch or a brisk walk in the workplace. Do not sit in almost the same position for extended periods. Ensure to rest your eyes as well. Look up periodically to fix your attention for a few seconds on a subject at least 20 feet away. 
  • KEYBOARD ALIGNMENT: Allow staff to correctly configure their keyboards so that they can type in a relaxed position. With so much time spent typing, keyboard placement can play a significant role in repetitive strain injuries.
  • ADJUST SEATING: Poor posture is a primary source of repetitive strain injuries, so limit leaning on workstations or hunching. Employees should modify their seats to sit upright, feet flat on the floor or a footrest, and not tilt to the side or toward their monitor. It is preferable to utilize an ergonomic office chair that supports several regions of the body, particularly the back. Choose one with lumbar support, leans back, and has adjustable armrests and height, such as this one from FlexiSpot.
  • LIMIT MOUSE USE: Positioning the mouse at the appropriate height and placement is the first step toward decreasing strain, but another excellent workplace ergonomic tip is to reduce mouse use. Master keyboard shortcuts for popular functions like copy and paste and make use of the mouse keys function, which allows you to move the cursor around the screen using the arrow keys on a keyboard's numeric keypad.
  • SIT AND STAND: Change the position of your workstation or use a standing desk to alternate between sitting and standing.
  • Set an alarm to remind yourself to stretch and take breaks.
  • Dress in layers or keep a jacket on hand at work to ensure a reasonable temperature.

These workplace ergonomics recommendations are just several ways employees who are showing early indicators of injury can feel more at ease at work. Even if you're a company owner, a supervisor, or manage ergonomics for your business, it is critical to provide employees with suggestions and methods for preventing injury and empowering them to make the necessary changes. The strongest prevention against repetitive strain injuries is awareness and establishing ergonomics as a part of your workplace culture.