What is Repetitive Stress Injury?
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a name given to a number of disorders that arise from too much stress being placed on a joint. In the modern workplace, the major cause of RSI comes from sitting and working at a computer all day.
The most common types of RSI are tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon) and bursitis (inflammation of a bursa). Tendons are the fibrous tissues that attach muscle to bone, bursae are small sacs filled with fluid that lie between tendons and bones in joint areas.
When stress is put on a joint, it pulls the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones in that joint. This puts pressure both on the tendons and on the bursae of that joint. For normal activity our joints are able to handle this stress. When we perform the same action over and over for extended periods of time, however, this stress continues building up without allowing proper time for our joints to heal. This results in the various forms of repetitive stress injury.
RSI is the most common cause of work related disorders today. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics RSI is responsible for 34% of all workday injury and illness leave, and costs about $20 billion annually. A study by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that $50 billion are lost by businesses annually due to repetitive stress injury disorders from decreased productivity, sick leave and medical expenses.
Warning Signs of Repetitive Stress Injury
- Tightness, soreness, stiffness, and inflammation of joints, particularly in the wrists, elbows, fingers and forearms.
- Coldness, tingling and numbness.
- Clumsiness and lack of coordination, particularly in the hands.
- Pain in the shoulders and upper back.
- Pain or numbness when lying down.
Ways to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injury
One of the facts of RSI is that it is much easier to prevent than cure. In today’s modern workplace it is impossible to stop working at repetitive tasks completely, however there are ways to relieve the stress on your joints.
- Always maintain proper posture when sitting at the computer. Never slouch.
- The mouse and keyboard should be situated at such a level that your arms are kept perfectly straight when using them, not bent up or down. You should never rest your wrists on anything, always keep them up in the air.
- Hold the mouse lightly, don’t clench.
- Take breaks every 30 to 45 minutes. Take the time to stretch during these breaks, move your muscles and joints in different ways. Concentrate on your arms, shoulders and back.
- When sitting at the computer, shift your gaze away from the screen every now and then. Look at something in the distance. This will reduce strain on your eyes.
- Keep your hands and arms warm. Cold increases the damage of repetitive stress injury.
- Avoid unnecessary computer use. If you don’t have to be on the computer, don’t be on it.
- Don’t tuck the telephone between your ear and shoulder so you can continue typing. This causes a lot of stress on the shoulders and neck.
- If you are feeling any symptoms of RSI and they are beginning to worsen, consult your doctor immediately.
Repetitive stress injury can be very damaging. Completely changing your work habits can be vital in saving you from crippling pain and severe disorders that could haunt you for the rest of your life, even keep you from working.
If you find that you do have an RSI related disorder, consulting your doctor of health professional is essential. While it is difficult to treat these disorders can be beaten with time and patience. However it is always best to stop yourself from ever having these disorders before you find yourself plagued by one.
Those over the age of 30 are most at risk, however it can affect younger people as well. Whoever you are, it is important that you understand the risks inherent in RSI and change your habits so as to reduce the level of stress to a minimal level. With work, anyone can prevent repetitive stress injury.