Ergonomics: Preventing Repetitive Strain Injuries

Posted on 01/20/2018 by Jonathan O'Brien

For many people today, using a computer is a part of life that we tend to take for granted. This technology is so deeply integrated into modern life that we use it for work, communication and even entertainment. For example, it is quite common for people to spend the majority of their workday in front of a computer, then return home and log onto their personal computers to check email, chat with friends, play games or watch a movie.

On average, most Americans adults spend between four to six hours a day in front of a computer, while teens tend to spend even longer amounts! All of this adds up to a great deal of time sitting in the same position and straining the eyes, wrists and fingers.

In particular, many people have noticed that after heavy computer use, they may start to feel aches, numbness and impairment in their hands. This is known as Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI. RSI is actually a physical trauma disorder that is caused by repeatedly performing the same movements many times over a prolonged period, especially when the muscles are stuck in a tense position. Typing or using a mouse for a very long time, without taking a break is often attributed as a cause of RSI. Other factors include texting on a cell phone or using video game consoles for a long time. Whether a person is active or sedentary, it can affect them either way. One of the easiest ways to notice that the first symptoms of RSI may be present is if you notice that your posture is extremely tense while in front of the computer, or if your hands and forearms, or upper body start to hurt unexplainably.

One form of RSI is more commonly known among many people as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS. Although they are not the same thing, they are related, since CTS primarily affects the nerves, whereas RSI also affects tendons and muscles. More than just the hands, RSI can cause much pain in related areas, such as the shoulders and neck too. In some cases, RSI can become so severe that sufferers can even have difficulty doing normal, everyday tasks, such as eating with utensils, turning the pages of a book or writing. Persistent pain should be brought to the attention of a doctor so that they can treat it appropriately. If it is left untreated, it could develop into a permanent disability. One of the best ways to deal with RSI is to prevent it before it can even set in. This can be done through simple steps such as setting up your workstation correctly, maintaining a good posture, taking regular breaks, and stretching. Employers should make their workers aware of RSI and its consequences and encourage them to take a brief break from their computers every now and then. People who have to spend large amounts of time in front of a computer should also consider investing in ergonomic work accessories. Even though these steps may seem fairly insignificant, they can make a huge and significant difference in the long run.


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