Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a very serious injury. To fully understand it, you must know what it is. You must also know the symptoms are, and how you can get it. What occupations does RSI usually occur in? Are there any ways to prevent it? Are there exercises that you can do to prevent it? How can employers prevent this in their employees? In the following paper, you will understand all of these questions and hopefully learn a lot about RSI.
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a disorder in which the muscles and tendons get overused. “Any activity with repetitive action brings with it the risk of RSI.” (Brown University 2008) This can happen even when you don’t recognize it. If you do the same thing over and over again, you tire the muscle and tendon. RSI injuries can be very painful and you can lose all function of the affected area if you do not get treatment. RSI can affect various parts of the body, not just the hands and wrists. It can involve the neck, shoulders, and even the legs and feet. (faqs.org 2009) When RSI affects the neck, you are probably using your neck a lot. RSI injuries that are neck related do not happen as much as other areas, but if it happens, it happens usually when a person plays sports. For example football players use their necks a lot so they are more likely to get a RSI injury to the neck. RSI that occurs in the arms, wrists, and hands happens when people use their arms, wrists, and hands a lot. An example of this would be someone who uses the computer a lot, a sewer who uses his or her hands repeatedly over and over again, or a pottery worker who molds clay and uses their hands repeatedly. An example of a shoulder related RSI injury would be a baseball player using his shoulder muscle or tendon to pitch the ball. Each person who comes up to bat gets a pitch. That’s a lot of repetitive motion on the shoulders. The legs and feet RSI would be someone who has to move their legs and feet a lot. For example, someone who used the sewing machine that you need to push down repeatedly with their legs and feet would get a RSI injury to the legs and feet. RSI is not something you can catch. Some people who do repetitive things do not develop RSI, but others do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RSI has gotten worse over the years. “In 1972 23,800 people had RSI and in 1994 332,000 had it”. (bls.gov, 2009) With that figure, it suggests that RSI will increase every year.
There are a lot of signs and symptoms of RSI. It is very important to not to ignore the first symptoms of RSI because it is very hard to treat once it is advanced. RSI injuries affecting the hands, wrists, and arms are the feeling of the body part going to sleep, numbness, and tingling. (beadwork.about.com 2009) A very prominent sign that you have RSI is if you wake up at night because of the pain in your arm, hand or wrists. The pain can either be dull or sharp. Your limb could feel rubbery as if it were not a part of your body. If it wakes you up at night, then it’s not something to be ignored because it could get worse. Another symptom you could experience is coldness in the affected body part. The limb can actually look a couple shades lighter than the other parts of the body. One more symptom is not being able to do the normal things you normally do. The loss of strength in the affected area makes the person unable to do the things they used to do.The last symptom that is a good sign that you have RSI is pain in the neck, or shoulder areas when you sit at the computer. You will find yourself trying to bend and twist to try to get the pain away but it doesn’t work because the strain has already occurred.
People who use the computer a lot are a lot more susceptible to RSI. Bad posture, incorrect hand placement on the keyboard, and time spent on the computer are ways to get RSI too. Bad posture at the computer makes RSI inevitable. Bad posture puts a strain on the body. Another way to get RSI is being at the computer for long hours with not enough breaks in between. You are not only in the same position and doing the same thing, you can also get headaches from staring at the computer screen for a long period of time.
The most common occupations to get RSI, are those on the computer a lot, and athletes. Occupations that use the computer a lot are computer programmers, network and security, medical secretaries, medical technologists including pharmacists, and business. The sport athletes that get RSI a lot are baseball players, golfers, and football players. Computer Programmers, network and security, medical secretaries and technologists, require you to be on the computer for most of the time that you are at work! If you think about this, this is a lot of time! If the average employee works forty hours, and usually works about twenty hours over time that’s sixty hours out of one hundred sixty eight spent doing a lot of repetitive motions. These occupations are vital to the United States of America. Without these occupations our country would plummet. If these occupations are vital, how can we reduce the number of injuries with RSI?
A good way to reduce the number of injuries associated with RSI is to take breaks from the repetitive thing that you are doing. If you work in an office with computers, take short breaks. If this is not available for you or you can’t take short breaks you can still take miniature breaks. You can look away from the computer for a couple of minutes and close your eyes. Don’t close your eyes too long though, or your boss may think that you are cat napping! You can also do little exercises. You can take your hands and wrists and stretch them so that they can be relaxed. Stretch your back, your neck and if you can stretch your legs too! Also, make sure the temperature where you work is comfortable and not too cold and not too hot. If you cannot control this, as a lot of us can’t, accommodate the situation. If it is too cold where you work because of air conditioning then put a sweater on. If its too hot, buy a little fan to keep yourself cool. The reason this is important is because if your body gets too cold or hot you tend not to take yourself away from working. You also tend to slouch and your posture is bad. Another thing you can do to reduce your chance of having RSI is to get a comfortable chair to sit on. Make sure the chair is adjustable so that it can support your back. It is good to have a chair that has arms so you can rest your arms periodically on them. Also, you can position the keyboard in your lap so that your arms can have a rest. Try not to use the mouse. A track ball is better because it glides easier. When you are reading something at the computer, do not keep your hand on the mouse. This makes your arms tense. Whenever you can, try to relax your body. Another good way to get your body out of the bad posturing is to bring little snacks to boost yourself up. Nothing messy of course, but if you suck on a candy it will help you because you are not just working. The main way to prevent RSI is to practice ergonomics. This is the art of designing the job to fit the worker, not the other way around. Ergonomics is looking at your work environment and seeing what triggers your stresses and pains and what doesn’t. This includes the physical and environmental parts of your job. It is not possible to control everything about where you work, but if you can eliminate the stuff you can, you will be less likely to get an injury from RSI.
If you already have RSI, you can treat it. Sometimes you may have to have surgery if you ignored the symptoms and let it progress to that stage. When you notice the symptoms of RSI, The first way you can treat it would be resting! If you rest the affected body part it will be easier for you to heal. Another way is to change your environment. As I stated above ergonomics will help you do this. It is very important to do those things because it will help. A lot of the times when someone has been diagnosed with RSI the doctors will prescribe an anti-inflammatory pill. This works because it helps the inflamed area to heal by taking away the inflamed part. One other way to treat RSI is a mixture of hot and cold compresses. The mixture of heat and cold compresses help soothe the inflamed area.
If employers took the time to have a class before the employee started work with their job in computers, a lot of the injuries associated with RSI would go down. Both the employer and the employee would be informed on how to do the correct job and still be in good health down the line. Employees would stay at the job longer because they would feel cared about and would look forward to going to work. Most employers do not do this because of the time involved in doing so, and they are not mandated to do so. More and more people become victims of RSI because of the lack of knowledge about RSI. If there were more information about it and the serious complications that come with it, it would be looked at more closely. RSI is an increasing problem. People need to be aware of RSI, so that it has less of an effect on our world. Knowledge is power and together we can inform everyone about RSI.
? Drudi, D. (1997). Have Disorders Associated with Repeated Trauma Stopped Increasing.
In Safety and Health. Retrieved on 4/28/2009, from http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/archive/summer1997brief4.pdf
?Take Great Care of Your Hands (2009). Retrieved on 4/28/2009, from http://beadwork.about.com/od/tipstricksandtems/ss/Hand_Care_2.htm
?What is RSI? (2009). Retrieved on April 28, 2009, from www.faqs.org/faqs/uk/health/rsi/section-2.html