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4 ways to prevent repetitive strain injury when working from home

13 Jan. 2022

As most of us continue to work from home, we end up spending most of our time sitting at the computer. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many of us experience back pain, neck ache or shoulder strain when sitting for long periods.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) usually affects the hands, wrists, and arms and is caused by overuse or misuse of the affected body part, poor posture, and poor ergonomics – which are usually compounded by the need to sit at a desk all day. It can take months or years for this type of injury to heal, and it can cause severe pain that may never fully go away.

RSI can be a serious problem for remote office workers because of the absence of a regular work environment. But it doesn't have to be. Luckily, some simple adjustments can make a tremendous difference. It’s important to note what you can do before, during and after your working day with good ergonomics in the home office to make life more comfortable.

Here are 4 tips to help you prevent repetitive strain injuries when working from home.

1. Check your posture regularly

To help you maintain a good posture, it's important to check your posture regularly while working. Sit at your computer in a neutral posture – if you slump over your keyboard with your shoulders rounded forward, your body load places pressure on the intervertebral discs of your spine, causing them to squeeze together. Eventually, this can lead to wear and tear in the joints and will cause you pain.

To prevent this from happening, checking your posture every 30 minutes can help to keep you aware of your different body positions so you won't end up hunched over the keyboard after a few hours.

2. Adjust your workstation

To make sure that you maintain good ergonomics, it's also important to adjust your workstation regularly to make sure that working at your computer won't cause you unnecessary pain.

When sitting down, make sure your chair is at an ergonomic level with your desk for typing on the keyboard, with the backrest straight. Ensure that the height of your chair allows you to keep your feet flat on the floor, so your knees are at a 90-degree angle.

If you’re using an ergonomic chair, it's important to find one that will provide adequate cushioning support while working. Ideally, a chair should support the small of your lower back and allow flexibility in movement.

Make sure your chair armrest is correctly adjusted by turning the adjustment handle up or down so it's not in the way of your arm and hand movement while typing. Your armrest should be supportive and prevent your shoulders from being hunched up towards your ears – but it should not be so high to encourage you to bring the keyboard too close. It’s a good idea to leave enough space between the keyboard and your thighs, with an additional arm's length for adjustments.

It's equally important to make sure that your monitor or laptop screen are positioned so your eyes are level with the top of the screen, not looking down into it, which will help to prevent neck strain and headaches. Wide monitors are safer too, as these encourage you to keep a neutral posture and prevent your eyes from being positioned forward.

3. Keep your desk tidy

Make sure there’s a clear space at your workstation before starting work. Keeping your desk tidy and clear of clutter will help to prevent restricted and repetitive movements and will keep you from being distracted by unnecessary items so you can focus on what you are doing.

4. Practice using supportive equipment and tools

Take regular breaks from tasks that require repetitive motions or movements, such as typing or handwriting. Repetitive "grip and twist" motions with objects such as pens can cause pain in muscles, hands, and fingers.

If needed, ask your doctor for a wrist support to wear while typing and writing tasks. In addition, pieces of software can help with repetitive strain injury such as switching the keys you type on depending on the task at hand and/or reducing the speed of your cursor so that you do not have to move it around the screen too quickly.

5. Get up and go for a walk

Taking regular breaks from sitting down can help to reduce your risk of developing repetitive strain injuries because it encourages body awareness and helps you maintain a good posture. Make sure you get up for a walk at least once every hour, so you give your body a chance to rest away from the computer.

Setting reminders on your phone or computer can be useful for reminding you how much time has passed since your last break. They can also prevent you from sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

In summary, taking breaks, avoiding awkward positions, and using good ergonomic accessories when working from home is a must. It's also important to make sure you design your home workspace with good ergonomics in mind.

Remember to take breaks often throughout the day and take care of your body while working. If you follow these steps, you can reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries while working from home.

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