How to Prevent ?Repetitive Strain Injuries

Our bodies can only handle so much repetition before injury results. Here's how to prevent RSIs

Stretch regularly to prevent repetitive strain injuries

Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are examples of repetitive strain injuries. But you can avoid them with these tips

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an umbrella term used to describe injuries caused by excessive wear and tear on the soft tissues of the body (tendons, nerves, circulatory system, etc.) due to constant repetition of the same motion. Tendonitis (e.g., in the elbow) and carpal tunnel syndrome (in the wrist) are examples of RSIs. 

Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries

Typical symptoms of RSI can include tightness, swelling, soreness, dull ache, throbbing pain, sharp pain, numbness, tingling, burning and loss of strength in the affected area. These can also be signs of general fatigue, so see your doctor if you’ve had any of these symptoms for a prolonged period.

Causes of Repetitive Strain Injuries

RSI results from excessive and repetitive demands on the body. This includes repeating a single movement or motion pattern, forcing a joint to its extreme end of movement, excessive muscular exertion or force, pressing the body against a hard object, vibration from vehicles or tools, and even working in cold temperatures.

Our bodies are designed to withstand all these demands and activities. However, when done in combination and for extended periods, the injury risk increases – at work or at play.

How to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries

  • At work, learn to adjust the repetitive motions you do at a fast pace and schedule regular breaks. Try varying your activities throughout the day.

  • Check your workstation ergonomics, such as chair height and placement of your computer screen and keyboard. Items that are used frequently should be placed close by to minimize strain on the back, shoulders and arms. Use the correct technique to protect your back when lifting heavy objects.

  • Work habits should also be considered: Use keyboard shortcuts and other ways to execute commands for more variety in physical movements. Note how hard you strike the keyboard keys or grasp the mouse, or how you position your fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders. Stand and stretch periodically.

  • If you feel pain, get help. Learn to change how you are doing the activity that injured you. 

  • Good nutrition, exercise and stretching prepares the body for daily stresses. 

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.