RSI. What is it and how do we prevent it?

RSI or repetitive strain injury is becoming more common as we increase our usage of laptops, tablets and smart phones and increasingly develop bad posture.

RSI is an umbrella term used to cover a number of specific musculoskeletal conditions, including things like tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. It can cause pain, swelling and stiffness, as well as numbness and tingling, with the most affected areas the wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders.  In short it means the overuse of muscles, ligaments and nerves associated with repetitive movements over a long period of time without a break.

Causes can vary depending on where the affected area is, but more and more it relates to poor posture, inadequate set up of computer equipment and performing an activity at an intense high level of activity without regular breaks.

What can you do to prevent RSI?

  • Have a proper workstation assessment (WSA), also known as a display screen WSA imageequipment (DSE) assessment. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure all employees have a workstation risk assessment carried out.
  • Ensure computer-related equipment including the computer, display, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair are considered as part of the assessment.
  • To maintain correct posture and reduce back pain, ensure you are sitting properly. Visit NHS Choices for information on how to sit correctly
  • Take regular breaks, move around and stretch. This will help increase blood flow, feed more oxygen to the brain and relive stress.
  • Change positions so you use different muscles and check re-check your posture.
  • If you are office based, interchange with a standing desk. Evidence suggests that sitting too long each day is killing us. Visit Are we sitting too long for more information.

If you think you may have RSI, identify the cause first before looking at treatments.  A visit to a physiotherapist can help with this or a referral from your GP.  Other treatments to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation may include:

  • Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
  • Application of a cold pack or a cooling gel
  • A compression bandage
  • Massage can also help to release tight muscles and tendons

Once the pain is relieved exercises can help to strengthen muscles and tendons to help prevent the re-occurrence of RSI.

Check out the NHS Choices website for more detailed information on how to prevent RSI and what you can do to treat it.

Sources: September Healthy Magazine 2016, HSE website and NHS Choices website

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