How to prevent RSI

RSI is a relevant topic to all office workers as we nowadays can’t work without using some form of technology. Whether is it using a laptop for your next zoom meeting, opening and clicking away multiple screens with your mouse or typing e-mails on your phone or tablet. These utilities are designed to make the task at hand easier. Which stimulates us to do more as it enabled us to complete the to-do-list faster and more efficient.

When working and using utilities such as a screen, keyboard, mouse, laptop, tablet, phone, app or headset it also stimulates an incorrect body posture, lack of breaks and overburdening muscles, tendons and joints. Making them sensitive to RSI. You can prevent and reduce RSI complaints such as a painful neck, sore lower back, stiff shoulders and burning wrists with these four tips.

What is RSI

In short RSI stands for Repetitive Strain Injury and has been around for centuries. It is mainly known as an occupational disease. An estimated two million people in the Netherlands are at risk of RSI. And in Europe even 40 million. Those number are rapidly growing as the amount of hours we work behind a screen go up. Screen work is the biggest cause of RSI. Repetitive Strain Injury is a collective term for many conditions. Doctors prefer to specifically name the ailment such as tennis elbow, mouse arm or carpal tunnel syndrome. This way you know where the ailment is located. Therefore the term RSI is sometimes replaced by non-specific CANS. CANS stands for “Complaints of Arm, Neck and / or Shoulder”. But how does screen work lead to RSI?

How you get RSI

Getting RSI can easily happen when you have to perform the same actions for a longer period of time. When working behind a computer, your fingers, wrists, arms and your shoulder and neck region are strained. These muscles will hurt and your blood flow will decrease. Making those areas sensitive for injuries. Good circulation is especially important in your hands and fingers as they are heavily burdened by typing and using a mouse.

RSI complaints develop gradually and can occur in your hands, arms, shoulders, neck and upper back. The complaints usually start as tingling, a cold or dead feeling or light pain. These complaints can worsen to chronic pain and stiffness. If you suffer from neck pain this can lead to headaches. Your complaints can also move from one body part to another. But there are more signals to be aware of.

The stages of RSI

The great danger with RSI lies in the steal up on progression. Many people are not surprised that they sometimes have a sore wrist or cold fingers. The pain and fatigue are also local, not really inconvenient and disappear after work. However, over time, the pain persists and loss of strength begins to occur. Other complaints may occur such as irritation, swelling, weakness, loss of grip, numbness and sometimes even fading of the skin colour.

In the last phase of RSI the pain persists, even at night. Your joints can ‘crack’, your skin temperature changes and your skin can become discoloured and swell. Only this last stage is called RSI and recovery takes a long time. RSI is a relevant topic to office workers and deserve attention. The following tips will help preventing these complaints.

How to prevent RSI

The key lies in using utilities needed to excel your work in the best possible way, by taking a break from them. The utilities are not meant to be used for hours on end, but for a shorter period of time. That way you can increase your mental and physical health and can maximise your productivity as well. To ensure breaks RSI software can be helpful.

BreakTimer helps you to take breaks. You can set how long you want to work, after which you get a signal to stop for a while. The length of a break can be adjusted. Break Timer is free to use and add as a plugin to Chrome. Suitable for Windows, macOS and Linux. Available as app and desktop version.

WorkRave monitors the use of your keyboard and mouse. During your break you will see different types of exercises in the form of animations and a description. This number of minutes can be manually adjusted, as well as the duration of the interval between the breaks. Workrave also keeps statistics of the use of your keyboard and mouse, the number of breaks you have taken and the time you have worked longer than you have allowed yourself. Suitable for Windows and Linux. Available in several languages. 

Time Out has two different types of breaks: a long break of about 10 minutes after every 50 minutes and a micro break of 10 seconds every 10 minutes. Incidentally, you can set the times between the breaks and the duration of the breaks as you wish. During the pause, the screen will slowly dim and a bar will appear showing how long the pause will last. Specifically for Mac users.  

Please note that just taking a break is not enough to prevent RSI complaints. Combining a break with exercise, a short active physical movement, is most beneficial.

The most effective exercises

For every hour the body is working in a sitting position, it needs a minimum of 90 seconds of active movement to able to function again properly. The longer you wait to take an active break, the lesser the quality of your work will be. And the harder your body needs to work on upholding its vitality. 

Of course going to the gym before or after work is great, but taking active breaks regularly throughout day is far more effective for the mental and physical health.  We have developed snack exercises that re-energize the body and brain positively in between work tasks. Below are two of our snack exercises that focus on preventing RSI complaints and increase your overall vitality.

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We believe in a high quality of life by achieving a complementary balance between physical and mental health. The way to achieve that balance is by stimulating vitality awareness. We build live online vitality platforms that increase the sustainability specifically of office workers based on four key points: office workouts, office mindfulness, office food and office academy.

Our Office Talk contains informative blogs on physical and mental health and inspiring interviews with office workers and vitality experts who reveal their best personal tips.  Office Talk is available on our website. 

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