A qualified physiotherapist is going to show you simple stretches and exercises that can be performed in any environment, that will help you to prevent developing what can become quite debilitating conditions. If you feel that you’re already displaying RSI symptoms, please refrain from these stretches, and read “How to Treat RSI“.
Step 1: Full-body Stretch. Take your arms out to the sides, with palms facing downwards. Extend your fingers and elbows while you gently rotate your arms at the shoulder joint so that your palms face upwards. You can then bring your arms up sideways, until they’re overhead. Interlock your fingers, and press your palms upwards toward the ceiling. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, and then gently bend to one side. Again, hold for 10-15 seconds before bending to the opposite side.
Step 2: Upper Torso. Interlock your fingers behind your back with your palms facing the torso. Retract your shoulders backwards as if you’re trying to grip a cushion between your shoulderblades. Make sure you don’t cheat by moving your ribcage forward. Now, stretch your arms downward gently, and hold for 10-15 seconds.
Step 3: Neck. Sit upright with your shoulders square and your arms relaxed. This is your starting position. Now, tuck your chin back, without bending your neck. Slowly and gently turn your head sideways, as far as you can without moving your shoulders. You should feel a comfortable stretch across the opposite side of the neck to the way you’re turning. Once at the end of your range, hold for 10-15 sceonds, and then repeat in the opposite direction. After this, return to the starting position. Tuck in your chin as before and bend your neck to one side as if you’re trying to place your ear on your shoulder. Again, hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side.
Step 4: Shoulders. Sitting upright, with your back unsupported, hang your arms by your sides and shrug your shoulders upwards, depress them downwards, draw them back, and protract them forward. Repeat these steps a couple of times, and finish by gently circling your shoulders in tandem both forwards and backwards.
Step 5: Arms. Firstly, place your hands together in a prayer position. Gently push to one side. Hold for 15-20 seconds, and then gently push to the other side for 15-30 seconds. Throughout the stretch, keep your fingers straight and your fingertips together.
Step 6: Forearms. Stretch out your arm so that the elbow is fully extended and your palm is facing upwards, and pull gently down, using your other hands to feel a stretch over the top of your forearm muscles. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times with each arm. You can reverse this stretch using the same technique to stretch the muscles at the back of your forearm.
Step 7: Wrists. Place your forearm on a desk or work surface, and form a fist with your hand so that the thumb is on the upper side. Slowly move your fist to the right, and then to the left, without moving your forearm. All movement should be occurring at the wrist joint. You can also lift your arms away from the desk and gently circle your wrists in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.
Step 8: Fingers and Thumb. Place each finger, one at a time, at the edge of your desk, keeping your wrist straight, and gently push into the desk, bending your extended finger backwards. When the stretch is comfortable, hold for 10-15 seconds, and then change fingers. For the thumb, you should place one arm at a time palm-down on the desk. Use the other hand to gently stretch the thumb away from the forefinger, until the stretch is comfortable, then hold for 10-15 seconds before swapping sides.
For more tips on how to prevent the development of RSIs by adjusting your workstation and working habits, read “How to Prevent RSI“.