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Five Tips to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury

BY Lee Craig
Health & Safety

Repetitive strain injuries are among the most common occupational health problems but by following some common office ergonomics tips, you can reduce risk and alleviate discomfort from repetitive strain injuries.

What Is a Repetitive Strain Injury?

A repetitive strain injury refers to the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and tendons due to repetitive movements and overuse. While repetitive strain injuries are most common in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands, they can affect any moveable part of the body.

Many employees may not think the way they hold their mouse or the angle of their screen causes strain, but when muscles are exposed to repeated use and strain, it can result in microscopic tears to muscles and tendons, reduced range of motion, and inflammation, which ultimately leads to symptoms including:

  • Pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Extremities turning white or cold
  • Muscle tightness, stiffness, cramping, or discomfort
  • Clumsiness or loss of coordination
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat

5 key tips to reduce the risk of RSI

1. Keyboard alignment: Set up the keyboard to allow for typing in a neutral position. With all the time spent typing emails, reports, and spreadsheets, keyboard alignment can be a big contributor to repetitive strain injuries.

2. Regular breaks: Take advantage of natural breaks such as between meetings by adding in a quick stretch or a short walk.  Give your eyes a break too. Look up frequently to focus a few seconds on an object at least 20 feet away.

3. Mouse use: The slight movements of manoeuvring a mouse can lead to wrist, hand, and neck strain. Placing the mouse at the proper height and position is the first step toward reducing strain but finding ways to reduce mouse use is a good tip. Use Tab to navigate form fields; learn keyboard shortcuts for common functions, such as cut and paste; and use the mouse keys feature, which allows moving the pointer around the screen with the arrow keys on a keyboard’s number pad.

4. Seating: Leaning on desks or slouching should be avoided as poor posture is a leading cause of repetitive strain injuries. Employees should sit up straight with their feet on the floor or a footstool, not leaning to the side or toward their screen.

5. See a doctor : A stiff neck, numbness in the fingers, or other upper body pain could be the result of a repetitive strain injury. Delaying diagnosis means the longer an injury goes untreated and potentially a longer recovery time. If you are in pain, do not put it off. Take the time to get the treatment you need.

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