Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)

A repetitive stress injury, sometimes referred to as repetitive strain injury, is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities. These movements can cause your muscles, tendons and nerves to become damaged over time. In addition to pain, other common symptoms can include swelling, tingling, numbness, stiffness, weakness and sensitivity to cold or heat.

Some activities that can increase your risk for RSI are:
Stressing the same muscles through repetition.
Maintaining the same posture for long periods of time.
Maintaining an abnormal posture for an extended period of time.
Being in poor physical condition or not exercising enough.
Previous injuries or conditions, such as a rotator cuff tear or an injury to your wrist, back, or shoulder, can also predispose you to RSI.

Diagnosing RSI:
If you have even mild discomfort completing certain tasks on your job or at home, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to talk about RSI. Your doctor will ask you questions about your work and other activities to try to identify any repetitive movements you do. They’ll also ask about your work environment, such as whether you work at a computer or have an ergonomic work station. They’ll do a physical exam as well. During the exam, they’ll perform range of motion tests and check for tenderness, inflammation, reflexes, and strength in the affected area. Your doctor may also order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to assess tissue damage. An electromyography (EMG) may be ordered to check on nerve damage. For mild damage, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. If the damage is severe, they may also refer you to a specialist or surgeon. Your doctor and physical therapist can also suggest adjustments to your work station, such as readjusting your chair and desk if you work at a computer, or modifications to your movements and equipment to minimize muscle strain and stress. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Preventing RSI:
Sit up straight and don’t slouch! Good posture is the key to avoiding unnecessary stress on your muscles. This takes practice and mindfulness. There are also many exercises you can do to improve your posture.
Adjust your work station to promote good posture and comfort.
Sit in a chair that gives you support for your lower back and keep your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground, and your hands, wrists, and forearms should be aligned. Your elbows should be in line with your keyboard to avoid strain.
Avoid sitting cross-legged.
If possible, spend some of your computer time at a standing desk. Slowly increase the amount of time you stand, aiming for 20–30 minutes each hour or more.
Place your computer monitor about an arm’s length away from you. The screen should be at eye level so you’re looking straight ahead.
If you’re on the phone a lot, use a headset to avoid straining your neck, shoulders, and arms.
Taking frequent breaks from your desk throughout the day is as important as having an ergonomic workstation.
– Get up to stretch or walk around
– Do shoulder stretches at your desk
– March in place
– Wiggle your fingers and flex your wrists

These simple, but effective mini breaks can make a big difference in preventing RSI.


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