What is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

Categories: Ergonomics |

If you work with your hands, you’ve likely heard about the specter of Repetitive Strain Injury. Common especially among typists and other people who work primarily in front of a computer, RSI can be at the very least uncomfortable and distracting, and at the very most a debilitating condition that can take away from your productivity.

Let’s talk about what RSI is, how you can heal it, and — importantly — how you can avoid making it worse.

What Is RSI? 

RSI is an umbrella term that very generally refers to pain coming from strain in the hand muscles or tendons that stems from overuse (or inappropriate use). Any kind of routine hand motion that happens in a repetitive fashion (such as typing) can trigger RSI if the appropriate steps are not taken. 

What Are Some Symptoms of RSI? 

There’s a difference between being tired of typing at the end of a long workday and actually contracting RSI, but it’s a nuanced line. Some of the common symptoms felt by people in the early and continuing stages of RSI are: 

Pain in the fingers

Stiff joints and knuckles

A throbbing sensation

Numbness (particularly in the evening)

A weakness in your hands

A hand muscle cramp that doesn’t seem to go away.

If you’re experiencing any of the above conditions, take a moment to examine your typing routine. You may need to switch a few things up to avoid further injury. 

How to Treat RSI

If you have already contracted some form of RSI, the first step is to look at your typing routine to see if there are any actionable steps you can take to make sure you can keep doing what you’re doing in a less harmful way. Incorporating frequent rests into your work routine is one such step.

Others include modifying your typing stance, prioritizing good posture while you work, and considering other ways to get your work done (for example, using a voice-to-text converter for long stretches of work). 

Preventing RSI

It’s probably best to make sure that you’re not able to get RSI in the first place, as it’s painful and frustrating and definitely easier to heal if it doesn’t get bad in the first place! Experts recommend a general reduction in overall stress to reduce your risk of contracting the disease, so try some breathing exercises or delegating tasks when you can. 

Other than that, prioritize resting your hands, and perhaps try some massage therapy to make sure your muscles have time to bounce back between periods of working them. Make sure that your posture while you type is impeccable as well — good form goes a long way towards making sure that your movements are healthy! 

Repetitive strain injury is an inconvenience that no one needs to endure. Make sure that you won’t have to by taking the time to optimize your work stance, and take rests whenever you need them! Your hands are important tools. Take care of them.

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