An Introduction To Preventing Work Related Upper Limb Disorders
Although many people are now familiar with the phrase ‘repetitive strain injury’ which is often referred to as RSI, many people are not aware that a work related upper limb disorder is basically a repetitive strain injury that has been caused by work or working practices.
What Causes Work Related Upper Limb Disorders?
RSI or work related upper limb disorders are caused by any activity that is undertaken for a long time or an activity that is repeated on a very frequent basis. Many conditions that are seen today arise directly from computer use and more often than not can be attributed to incorrect computer usage.
The main cause of upper limb disorders from computer use is simply incorrect posture often the result of workstations not being conducive to sitting correctly. When sitting in a hunched position, strain is placed on certain areas of the upper body, particularly the arms and shoulders. This strain can eventually take its toll in the form of aches, pains or cramps in the upper limbs.
Sometimes the upper limb disorder can be a recognised condition such as tendonitis, but in many cases the pain is transitory in the sense that it moves around and there is no obvious swelling or inflammation.
Although many people can get help for work related upper limb disorders, it is far better to adopt a stance of preventing the disorder happening in the first place, rather than treating a condition that is painful.
Although many people use a computer for long periods at work and may have a work station that is designed to suit their needs, those same people may come home to spend long hours on a PC at home where there is little room and the body is strained and stressed by sitting incorrectly. So any computer usage should be considered, not just the work environment.
The chair that is used for using any PC needs to support your back and enable you to sit up straight. This can be difficult for people who slouch naturally, but it will help to prevent a disorder from developing.
The chair also needs to enable your feet to touch the floor. If they can’t then it is harder to sit upright.
Using a mouse can place a lot of strain on the wrist, so make sure that the mouse is as close to the keyboard as possible.
If you have to do a lot of typing for work then you should learn to touch type. Initially this will slow down your speed, so it is probably better to learn the basics out of work time, but after only a month or so your typing speed will increase and you will also find that you aren’t stressing the hands and shoulders as much, so it is a good way of ensuring that you don’t suffer any pain as a result of typing.
Finally although this sounds easy, it is actually quite difficult to put into practice; take frequent breaks and try to stretch and shake out your arms and shoulders after using a PC.
In open plan offices this can be difficult, but even just sitting back and stretching your arms up towards the ceiling can help. Walk to a drinks machine, to see a colleague etc and just ensure that you don’t sit there for hours, hunched and putting stress on your body.
Prevention really is better than cure, so make sure that you do all you can to prevent a work related limb disorder from developing, because by that stage, at least some damage has been done.