RSIs are the most common form of work-related injury and can be found in people who work in manual or office based jobs - in other words, pretty much everyone. The muscles of the fingers, wrists, hands, arms and shoulders are the ones we're going to talk about.
Imagine you work at a checkout, and you spend all day sitting down twisting from left to right while you swing shopping across the scanner. This is the definition of repetitive, and you can imagine how tired and sore your back and arms would be. What do you mean, this won't apply to you as you work in an office?
Okay, imagine you work at a desk (I'm guessing this will be a lot easier to imagine for the majority of people reading), and rather than the constant movement from left to right that our checkout worker has, you now seem to be mostly maintaining a static posture, with only your arms moving as you type or write.
The body is extremely good at protecting and repairing itself, but if we spend hours making the same repetitive movements, this healing is not able to keep up with the small amounts of damage we do over and over again. It may take months or even years for the symptoms to show: these can be a slight ache which develops into pain over time, along with numbness and pins and needles in the upper limbs.
If you are feeling any of these, there are a few things you can do to help:
- It might sound silly but a warm up and cool down of the muscles used can work wonders - stretching and changing positions through lots of short breaks will really help (e.g. stand up to take a phone call)
- Make sure your seating position is optimum (see our earlier post on posture) and that you make good use of equipment designed to make your work more comfortable
- Make sure you have some time to relax throughout the day - there is nothing like a stress-busting few minutes of calm to ease aches and pains
- A genius, if not very obvious, piece of advice is make sure your clothes fit well so you can move freely (anything that constricts you stops your muscles warming up and makes it difficult to reach for things)
- Speaking of reaching: do have most things within easy reach like the mouse and keyboard
- If you use the phone a lot throughout the day, do obtain a headset rather than wedging the phone between your ear and shoulder
If you must continue the tasks which cause your pain, you might find supports like wrist splints useful.
Ask a physiotherapist for more advice on pain relief, exercise and how to avoid a recurrence of your symptoms.