Over the next several posts, we’ll be moving our focus to lifestyle-related injuries and ways to prevent some common ones. This week, we’ll be covering repetitive stress injury, an issue that affects 5-10% of adults. In our modern society, long hours sitting in front of computers is just one of many factors that could lead to this injury. Let’s cover the basics in more detail.
What is RSI?
Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is a debilitating injury that is caused by overusing your hands to do a repetitive task. More commonly, these tasks involve typing, clicking a mouse, or writing - pretty much anyone that uses a computer for prolonged periods could be at risk. RSI results in damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves in the hand, forearm, shoulder, and neck. This leads to pain, weakness, numbness, or motor control impairment.
When you visualize it, repeated hand movements performed hour after hour and day after day could strain the tendons, which become inflamed and potentially pinch nerves, leading to numbness and tingling. This cycle continues and leads to long term and chronic injury.
What Are the Risks?
The three primary risk factors that could cause RSI include poor posture, poor technique, and overuse.
Poor posture is self-explanatory. If you slouch while sitting or your chair or monitor height aren’t adjusted correctly, this impacts the rest of your body. With poor posture, you add strain to the upper extremities, and your hand and wrist placement on the keyboard and mouse could be off.
Poor technique is centered around typing, clicking, and writing. If your wrists aren’t straight or resting on the table while you’re typing, your RSI risk goes up. The same applies to clicking on a mouse - resting your wrist on the table or positioning a mouse too far out are both risk factors. And finally, gripping a pen too tightly while writing often has the same effect and could cause RSI.
Overuse ties all this together. If you’re using a computer or writing for more than several hours a day, it’s not hard to picture the strain that can be put on your muscles and tendons around the hands, wrists, and forearms. With poor posture and technique, the strain becomes magnified the more you use those muscles and tendons.
Symptoms of RSI
The main symptom of RSI is tell-tale pain to the upper extremities, including the fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, and shoulders. You could feel a burning or aching pain, which could be at the fingertips or throughout the forearm. Additional usage and hours will typically increase the pain.
Long term, RSI could have a huge impact on your work and personal life, hurting your ability to do work and preventing you from doing simple tasks at home such as opening doors, doing laundry, or carrying groceries.
Thankfully, RSI isn’t common and can be prevented with good posture and technique as well as exercises to strengthen your upper extremities. In our next post, we’ll cover prevention techniques so you can work and play without worry of chronic pain to your hands, wrists, and forearms.
And be sure to check out our latest product, the E75 Wrist Straps that provide total wrist protection, whether in the office, on the court, or in the field.