How to Prevent RSI?

Have you ever heard of RSI? Millions of people have, and it’s a problem that’s affecting an increasing number people year on year, especially in the workplace.  Repetitive strain injury is an umbrella term for a number of injuries resulting from overuse of the muscles, tendons and nerves. We are going to explain how to avoid developing repetitive strain injuries, by making just a few cheap and simple adjustments to the way you may be performing certain tasks in the workplace.

Step 1: Workstation Setup.  When assessing your workstation, you should have enough room to comfortably get your legs under the desk when seated; have enough space to put equipment and other materials on the desk surface without crowding; and be able to reach your keyboard and mouse without straining forwards.  If your feet cannot be placed flat and comfortably on the floor, then a footrest should be used.

Step 2: Adjust Seating.  Adjust the height of your chair so that, when working, your forearms are parallel to the floor, your upper arms hang loosely from relaxed shoulders, and your elbows are bent at an angle of 90 degrees.  The backrest should be adjusted or positioned so that firm support is given to your lower back.  This will enable you to maintain the correct sitting posture.  The front edge of the seat should be rounded to avoid uncomfortable pressure on the back of your thigh.  If the chair you use is not adjustable in any of these ways, the same effect can be achieved by using a variety of cushions, seat wedges, and portable backrests at very little cost.

Step 3: Monitor Position.  Your monitor should be positioned so that it’s central, and directly in front of you.  The viewing distance between you and the screen should be around 40-60 centimeters, or an arm’s length away from you, and your eyeline should be directly opposite the top third of your monitor screen.

Step 4: Wrist Position.  Your wrists should be straight, neither bent up nor down, nor angled to the left or right, therefore allowing your hands to be flat and parallel to the keyboard.  You should not rest your wrists on the desk surface or a wrist pad while typing, as this can reduce blood flow to the hand and consequently increase muscle fatigue.  However, it can be comfortable to rest on wrist pads and cushioned products when taking a break from typing.

Step 5: Take Regular Breaks.  It’s important to take regular mini-breaks to allow your muscles to relax and recover.  Taking a break can be as simple as moving your hands away from the keyboard and allowing your arms to hang by your sides.  To avoid shoulder and neck fatigue, you should stand up from your desk and stretch every thirty minutes.  There are also a number of exercises and stretches that you can perform during one of your mini-breaks.  (See “RSI Prevention Exercises“)  You can even download programs which prompt you to take a break when you’re becoming too engrossed in your work.  These include Stretch Break and RSI Guard.

Step 6: Stay Fit and Healthy.  Exercise doesn’t need to mean running a marathon, or training for the Tour de France.  But, eating well and being generally fit and healthy all minimize the risk of injuries developing.  The key is to exercise regularly, little and often, no matter how gentle, especially if your job is static and sedentary in nature. Pilates is often recommended as a complimentary method to improving postural problems, as is the Alexander technique and yoga.  See our collection of VideoJug films about both yoga and pilates for further information.  If you’ve already developed a repetitive strain injury, read “How to Treat RSI” for help with what to do to resolve  your problem.


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