While you might think that you are safe from injury, sitting comfortably at your desk for the day, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Office work involves a lot of repetitive tasks, such as, typing on your keyboard and clicking your mouse all day long. These actions can leave you susceptible to work-related aches and pains. Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are a common complaint among office workers, and the resulting pain can significantly impact work productivity. But what is RSI and what steps can you take to avoid it? Here we provide you with a few tips for minimising your risk of workplace RSI.
What is RSI?
Repetitive strain injury, more commonly known as RSI, refers to damage to the tendons, muscles or nerves that occurs as a result of repetitive movements. RSIs tend to occur in the wrists, hands, forearms, neck and shoulders, although other areas of the body may also be affected. The symptoms of RSIs include:
- Mild to severe pain
- Numbness and/or tingling
- Feelings of weakness
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
Your symptoms may gradually develop and become more intense until you seek treatment. They may be more noticeable throughout the day as you perform the activities that trigger your RSI. Your symptoms may be severe enough to limit your daily activities.
What Causes RSI?
Repetitive movements and overuse of muscles and tendons in the upper body can lead to the distinctive pain of RSI. A lack of adequate rest and poor posture during daily activities can increase your risk of developing RSI. Stress, cold temperatures and vibrating equipment may also contribute to the development of RSI.
Activities that are associated with RSI include:
- Typing on a keyboard
- Using a computer mouse
- Grasping tools
- Swiping items through a supermarket checkout
- Lifting heavy loads
RSI is more common among people with desk jobs, assembly line workers and checkout staff. These jobs all involve repetitive activities throughout the workday. So, how can employers and employees alike work to prevent RSI and support those workers with RSI?
Preventing RSI in the Office
1. Invest in a good quality ergonomic desk
Whether you are working from home or have made it back into the office with your colleagues, you should have access to a comfortable and ergonomic workstation. A suitable desk that has been effectively matched up to your needs will go a long way towards preventing RSI. One of the most important things to consider is the height of your desk, you should not have to bend or slouch to work on your computer.
You should also take some time to think about your posture while sitting at your desk. Make sure that your back and neck are adequately supported by a good quality ergonomic office chair. An adjustable backrest is ideal as this allows you to tailor it to the contours of your back. Your forearms should be supported by properly positioned armrests and your shoulders should be relaxed. You can either place your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest to support them.
2. Add movement into your day
Our bodies are designed to move about throughout the day. Sitting in the same position for prolonged periods can lead to a myriad of health problems. So, get up and moving! Take regular breaks away from your desk, even if these are only for a short time. Exercise helps to stretch our muscles out and get the blood pumping around the body, helping to combat general aches and pains and minimise our risk of injury.
Have you thought about using a height-adjustable standing desk to improve your flexibility and posture while at work? Standing desks are increasing in popularity for a reason - they are comfortable and effective. Check out our exciting range of stylish and practical height adjustable standing desks.
3. Use speech recognition software
One of the most repetitive tasks that you perform in your office role is typing on your keyboard. Speech recognition software offers a way to limit your reliance on a keyboard and mouse, allowing you to use your voice instead of manually typing. Not only can this software help to keep you pain-free, it can also improve your productivity and pace of work.
There are free to use speech recognition programs pre-loaded onto most of the popular operating systems.
4. Use an ergonomic keyboard
Your risk of developing RSI can be significantly decreased by using an ergonomic keyboard. These specialist keyboards help to minimise unnecessary risk and finger movement and encourage you to type in a neutral position.
Keyboard shortcuts and functions such as Window’s “Sticky Keys” can be used to limit unnecessary clicks of the keyboard or mouse.
5. Place your laptop on a stand
With hybrid work models leaving many of us flitting between the home and office, laptops are becoming more popular. The trouble is, they are not designed to support correct body posture, instead encouraging you to bend and hunch over. To overcome this, you should place your laptop on a suitable stand (or if you want to cut costs - a pile of old textbooks!) to raise the screen to eye level and ensure that you are not straining your neck to see.
6. Seek medical advice if needed
Do not delay seeking medical advice if you experience any of the signs and symptoms of RSI. To recover from your injury and prevent further damage appropriate treatment should be provided promptly.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, these are simple steps that you can take to prevent RSI within your workplace. As the pandemic continues, we must make sure that workers are adequately supported and educated to minimise their risk of workplace injuries.