Repetitive Strain Injury and Computer Users

Repetitive Strain Injury and Computer Users


Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is basically an umbrella term used to refer to a loose group of conditions characterized by an overuse of specific muscles.

Also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder, RSI injuries primarily occur due to overuse of computer, guitar, knife or other similar repetitive motions.

The most commonly known forms of RSI include:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Tendonitis Bursitis Tenosynovitis DeQuervain’s Syndrome Tendinosis Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Trigger Finger/Thumb Cervical radiculopathy Epicondylitis Ganglion cyst Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

A recent survey in Great Britain indicated that every year, an estimated 400,000 people suffer from RSI which was either caused or worsened by work, resulting in a loss of around 4 million working days in a year.

RSI and Computers

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.

The most prominent cause of this phenomenon is that the concerned muscles are kept tense for extensive periods of time, due to poor posture and repetitive movements.

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

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.

Key Symptoms

Repetitive Strain Injury in computers generally occurs due to a mixture of bad ergonomics, poor posture, stress ad repetitive motion.

A series of symptoms are indicative of the occurrence of repetitive strain injury in computer users. Here we list the main amongst them.

Pain or soreness in the neck, shoulders, upper back, wrists or hands that occurs repetitively Tingling, numbness or coldness in the hands and wrists Partial loss of sensation Loss of grip strength, lack of endurance Weakness and fatigue Pain and numbness while lying in the bed

Treatment Options

A vast series of treatment options are available for relief from the symptoms of RSI in computer users. Here we have briefly listed the main measures.

Painkillers Arnica (natural anti-inflammatory) Heat or cold packs Anti-inflammatory medicines Osteopathy Acupuncture Firm wrist splints Elastic wrist supports Physiotherapy Alexander technique

Some of the other measures are:

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

Preventive Measures

For those who work regularly on computers, especially for longer durations, it is important to adopt the following preventive measures to avoid suffering from repetitive strain injuries.

Pay adequate attention to pain and fatigue and discontinue computer usage before the onset of symptoms. Maintain good postural habits. Take frequent and proper breaks in your work time. It is advisable to walk and stretch for at least 2 minutes after every half an hour. Hold your wrists straight while working instead of resting them on the pad. Try to use alternate input devices such as speech recognition, graphics tablets, tablet PCs or trackballs instead of the conventional keyboard and mouse. Increase the font sizes when you work for longer hours Never pound on the keys and use only a soft and light touch Do aerobic exercises regularly Follow good sleeping habits Drink sufficient water and prevent smoking

Ergonomic Work Environment

In this section, we list a brief set of workstation measures to avoid the symptoms of RSIs.

Top of the monitor should be at or just below the eye level Head and neck should be balanced and in-line with torso Shoulder should be kept relaxed Elbows should be kept close to the body and well-supported Lower back should be properly supported Wrists and hands should be in-line with forearms There should be adequate place for the keyboard and the mouse Feet should be kept flat on the floor