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Workplace wellness & postural assessment in the workplace


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How to Prevent RSI in the Workplace

These days everybody knows someone who has been affected by Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). RSI can dramatically reduce the productivity and comfort of employees in the workplace, this is why prevention is high on the agenda for both employers and employees.

Spending 8 – 12 hours behind a desk 5 days a week can cause extra stress in our lives – when we work longer hours and have fewer breaks this can increase the risk of RSI.
There are many ways to reduce the risk of RSI caused by work related factors – it is important that you educate yourself and employees in prevention before it’s too late.
If you think you are suffering from RSI make sure you see your health care practitioner.

What Is RSI?
Reparative strain injury is a term for a range of painful and uncomfortable conditions of the muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues. Repetitive strain injury is typically related to your job, but can also be linked to some leisure activities.

What Causes RSI?
RSI can be caused by many factors. They include:

  • Repeated arm use.
  • Working with equipment that doesn’t fit your body – such as office chair, computer equipment, mouse pad and desk.
  • Working too fast.
  • Not taking enough recovery breaks.
  • Holding your muscles in the same position for a long time.
  • Lack of training in the safest way to carry out a task.
  • Lack of variety in the work you do.
  • Working in cold conditions.
  • Incorrect ergonomic set-up

Symptoms of RSI

  • Aching and shooting pains.
  • Tremors and clumsiness.
  • Numbness and fatigue.
  • Lack of strength.
  • Difficulty with day to day activities – turning on a tap or opening a jar.
  • Cold hands – particularly the fingertips

Early signs of RSI

  • Soreness, tingling or discomfort in the neck, arms, wrists, fingers or shoulders.
  • Symptoms may come on when you’re doing an activity or can appear afterwards.
  • Symptoms may disappear when you stop doing the activity.

Over time a minor RSI condition can easily turn into a crippling injury with little warning.
Extra stress in your life and the pressure to work harder can cause your symptoms to become more severe.

How to prevent RSI

  • Varying your work tasks –this reduces the repetitiveness of your work load.
  • Taking a break – you should take a ten minutes break after every two hours of computer work.
  • Ergonomic work environment – when you have a proper set-up your body will be working in the correct position reducing the risk of RSI.
  • Typing with a neutral wrist position – by doing this your wrists will be in the correct position (reducing stretching and straining of your wrists).
  • Invest in a gel mouse pad that supports your wrist.
  • Sit up straight – bad posture is a primary risk factor in RSI.
  • Regularly stand up and stretch – by taking a break and having a stretch you will be revitalising your body.
  • Ensure the office is heated appropriately.
  • Do not grip the computer mouse tightly – this will cause stress and strain on your wrist.
  • Have the mouse close to your keyboard so you do not need to stretch.
  • And don’t rest your hand on mouse when not in use.

RSI treatment

  • See your health care practitioner to seek advice that suits your individual needs.
  • Rest the affected area – this is important as if you don’t rest the affected area it may get worse.
  • Stretching routines – seek out a professional to advise you on the best stretching routines to suit your needs
  • Squeezing and gripping devices – to build strength in the affected area.
  • Massage therapy – this can provide pain relief and help with assisted stretching and strengthening.
  • Look into practical ways of adjusting your work set-up.
  • Relaxation techniques and regular general exercise.

How do you or your employer reduce the risk of RSI in the workplace?

Brenda Hill
Your Workplace Wellbeing Advocate