Repetitive strain injury amongst IT workers and computer users

Repetitive strain injury amongst IT workers and computer users

What is a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) represents a group of conditions associated with the overuse of computer, guitar, knife or a similar motion or tool. It is an occupational overuse syndrome affecting muscles, tendons and nerves in the arms and upper back and is also known as work related upper limb disorder (WRULD).

It is most common among computer and assembly line workers.

IT Professionals and RSI

The use of computers has increased manifold in all spheres of life including professional and personal lives of individuals. This has in turn, increased the scope of RSI to the hands and arms resulting from the overuse of the computer keyboard and mouse.

If you are a regular computer user and witness a few of the below symptoms, you could be suffering from a computer related RSI:

  • Tightness, discomfort, stiffness in the hands, wrists and fingers
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands
  • Loss of strength and coordination in the hands
  • Constant pain in the upper back, shoulders or neck
  • Feeling the urge to massage your hands, wrists and arms

The disorder can actually affect multiple parts of the body, including eyes, neck, shoulders, forearms, thumbs, upper back, hands, wrists, fingers and arms.

Incidence and Prevalence

Research shows that 60% of IT professionals, who spend more than eight hours a day on the computer, are likely to suffer from the symptoms of RSI at some point.

Once contracted, such symptoms of RSI are extremely difficult to cure and can occur even in the young and physically fit individuals. In fact, people are often forced to quit their computer-dependent careers due to this disorder.

Preventive Measures

A series of preventive measures are recommended to avoid such repercussions of RSI related to computer usage. Here we list a few main guidelines:

Ensure proper infrastructure

  • Well-designed workstation
  • Proper eye-level from the monitor
  • Comfortable placement of the keyboard
  • Proper placement of the mouse
  • Use a proper computer chair
  • Insist for ergonomic devices (at workplaces)
  • Adequate lighting

Maintain a proper posture

  • Keep your back straight and don’t slouch
  • Wrists should be straight and level while typing
  • Wrists should not be bent on a side
  • Keep a proper footrest
  • Rest your arms on the armrests of the chair

Work-related precautions

  • Increase your font sizes
  • Don’t pound on the keys
  • Hold the mouse lightly
  • Eliminate redundant computer work

Habit-related precautions

  • Take lots of breaks to stretch
  • Keep your arms and hands warm
  • Don’t tuck the telephone between your shoulder and ear
  • Pay attention to any signs of pain

Remedial Measures

Prevention is the best remedial measure in the case of RSI prevalence amongst IT professionals. However, once afflicted, the following specific measures can be adopted for relief:

  • Gain awareness about your condition form books and internet
  • Modify the technology being used to prevent further damage
  • Use equipment such as orthopedic hand braces, but under medical advice
  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant medications

Other measures include:

  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Massage
  • Stretches and strengthening exercises
  • Surgery
  • Psychological approach

Further links on computers and IT usage

Links to articles on Computers and Pain