Simple Ways to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury

Published on 17/05/2018


Working in an office environment is not devoid of risks. Sitting at a desk for a long period of time can cause poor posture, chronic pain, and can also lead to some other health issues, such as weight gain and muscle weakness. In addition, typing on a keyboard can also cause repetitive strain injury, or RSI for short.

Of course, all of these health risks are avoidable, provided you pay attention to the way you are sitting, that you check that your workstations are geared up for your particular height, and that you use ergonomic chairs to support your back and neck. RSI is also something you can avoid, by being aware of what causes it, being aware of the symptoms, and by knowing what to do to stop it from happening to you.

So, what exactly is RSI?

Basically, RSI is a potentially serious condition which in its worst cases can be disabling. It is caused by repetitive movements of the hands and wrists, such as typing at a keyboard and using a mouse. The symptoms of RSI include pains which shoot up the arm, in the wrists, hands, the front of the arm, and even in the back, in some cases. This pain can be almost like a ‘toothache’, niggling pain, or it can be severe and stop you from using the hand/arm altogether.

As you can see, all of this could be quite problematic for an office worker who needs to use a computer as an integral part of their work. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help avoid RSI, or minimise its impact at the very least.

Check your Typing Position

One of the most effective ways to avoid RSI is to check the position you type in. The best position to use is the neutral position. This is a position which should feel entirely natural, and doesn’t involve bending of any part of your hand or fingers. Your fingers, thumb, wrist, and hand should be entirely in line, and as a result, you should feel no pain or discomfort, including stretching, when typing.

One of the most common problems when typing is called dorsiflexion. This is when you bend your wrist upwards when you’re typing, and can cause a huge amount of strain on the ligaments within your hand and wrist. Corner desks are a great choice of office furniture here, because they do a lot to force you into the right position when typing.

Check The Position of Your Keyboard

Many keyboards have the ability to be raised, via a small flap on the back of the board. The problem with this however, is that it forces your wrists into an unnatural position and that puts you at a higher chance of developing RSI over time. The best position for your keyboard is actually to be laid flat on the desk in front of you, or to be below your elbows. This works hand in hand (literally) with the neutral typing position we just talked about. It is impossible to type in this position if you have the keyboard raised up.

An ergonomic keyboard is a good choice, because this does everything possible to help you achieve that neutral typing position. You should also be careful not to try and rest your wrists on the table, as this will result in you flexing into something other than the neutral position. A gel wrist support could help if you really do feel the need to rest your wrists down on something, although it isn’t recommended that you do this for long periods of time whist typing.

Check How You Use Your Mouse

RSI doesn’t just occur because of keyboard use, it can occur in the mouse hand too. This is all down to flexing your wrist upwards towards you once more, that pesky dorsiflexion we were just talking about. The neutral position needs to be adopted for your mouse use, as well as for keyboard use, and a gel mouse mat could be a good option here.

If you’re struggling to find useful office furniture in London, we have a range of ergonomically designed furniture options here at Calibre, which will help with any potential RSI issues.

Remember to Take Regular Breaks

You might find it hard to break off when you’re in the middle of a task, but it is vital to your health and well-being that you have regular breaks throughout the day, and that you leave your desk when you do so. Many workplaces now have breakout space, which allows staff to break off from their work, and then return recharged. Having somewhere to go to on a break makes it much more likely that staff will take their breaks and not attempt to work through them. There are many health and motivational benefits to break time, so make this a must do. This also ensures that your hands get a break from all that typing and mouse clicking, and could be just enough to avoid RSI from setting in.

Think About Your Chair

It’s important to factor your chair into this RSI avoidance plan. Of course, your desk is just as important, but if you can find a supportive, ergonomically designed chair, you will find that your body is supported in the right way, which will drastically slash your chances of developing RSI.

Your chair needs to be adjustable at the height, tilt, armrest height, and on the backrest. If you find that arm rests are annoying you, or that they stop you from typing in the neutral position, you can remove them and it won’t affect the support of your chair in a detrimental way. Basically, being able to sit correctly means you’re much less likely to slouch, and that in itself eliminates a huge risk factor.

Checking out modern and ergonomic office furniture design is vital when ensuring the health and well-being of workers who sit at a desk for a long period of time. Computers are so prevalent in today’s working day and age that it is no surprise to hear that RSI is on the rise.

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