Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI is very common in a variety of jobs from office based roles to manual labour, one of the reasons RSI is common is because of the amounts of ways you can get it. From simply sitting in a slightly awkward position on a regular basis to lifting heavy objects for extended periods of times.
What is Repetitive Strain Injury?
RSI is a generic term used to describe the pain felt in around the upper body which is caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Other names are upper limb disorder and non-specific upper limb pain as this condition usually effect parts of the upper body such as forearms, elbows, wrists, hands, neck and shoulders.
How does RSI happen?
As RSI usually effect the muscles, a common example is over exerting the muscle in an unusual manor on a regular basis causing a strained or deformed muscle tendon. However RSI does effect nerves as well, effects such as tingling feelings can become apparent after damaging the muscles. Nerves can heal just like muscles however this processes can be painful and be extremely slow, most cases of RSI come from nerves that run from the neck down through the should to the wrists and hands.
Causes for RSI
RSI can only be caused when you regularly do something that causes and injury such as:
- An overuse of the muscles
- Carrying heavy loads
- Prolonged work without taking a break
- Bad posture
- Fixed posture
- Cold temperatures
- Forceful activities
Simple tips to prevent RSI
Use equipment with a natural grip
When using equipment be sure to have a natural grip and do not hold the object in an unnatural manor as this can result a slight strain, mixed with prolonged use this can cause RSI. There are many items that will tell you exactly how to hold and use them, these instructions should be used to the point as they have been carefully designed to assist you.
Use the correct adjustment
In all cases when you can adjust your PPE you should do so, as wearing this equipment incorrectly can cause strain in areas. Whilst PPE is designed to protect you they can cause you problems if you do not wear them with the correct adjustments.
Take regular breaks
You should take regular breaks when doing anything that could strain your muscles or tendons as this can dramatically reduce the effect of the repetitive strain. By doing this you let your muscles rest and repair which is needed when you put too much regular stress on your muscles. In UK law you must take regular brakes, especially when working with computers or undergoing ongoing manual labour.
Having the correct posture whether you are sitting at a desk or using a powerhammer, by overextending muscles in your back and have a knock on effect to other muscles throughout your body. There has been many cases where people with bad backs also have strains elsewhere, where they have over compensated because of bad posture.
Do not overdo it after a break
We all like to go on holiday but if you like the relaxing holiday be sure to take it easy when you get back to work. Just think, your muscles have been relaxed for the last week or so and when you go back to work and overexert yourself again the effects can be me even worst as the muscle hasn’t had time to stretch. Before going back into work you should try to stretch and warm up your muscles, this can help to reduce the chance of overexerting.
Learn about the correct procedures
When using equipment or working in an office you should always learn the correct procedures, especially when working. Lifting boxes is one of the most common causes of RSI which is usually from not lifting correctly, however all those who work in a warehouse should be trained to lift a box correctly.
Wearing specially designed personal protective equipment can quickly reduce the impact of RSI, there are many examples but for a full list please visit the HSE website as they have a whole section devoted to PPE and explaining exactly what you should wear in what environment.
Safety gloves are a regularly warn to reduce RSI, especially for vibrations. Powertools seriously affect your hands, arms and shoulders due to the excessive vibrations that when using them on a regular basis can cause not only RSI but loss of feeling in the hands and arms.
What can I do after I have RSI?
One of the first things to do when you have RSI is to access your activities and try to reduce those that you know have an effect on your conditions. For instance if you have strains in your back and you work in an office try to correct your posture as this can be causing you more problems. Another example would be to change the type of equipment you use as this can directly affect your condition.
There is a series of treatments you can take to help ease the condition such as medications like ibuprofen or pain receptor blockers, cold packs, physiotherapy, steroid injections and surgery. Another possible treatment method may be types of therapy, like physiotherapy, massages, osteopathy, some of these can be provided for you by the NHS whilst others you may need to visit a private clinic especially if you would like immediate treatment. However please do check that you visit a private clinic that is a registered organisation and they have the correct qualification to complete the treatment.
Some users who suffer with repetitive strain injury take part in regular yoga sessions which helps to stretch out the muscles and ease pain in certain areas, however these are purely complementary therapies.
So remember try to prevent RSI as once you have it trying to reduce it may be difficult