11 December 2006

All knotted up about office work?

Mondays mean the pain in your wrist, forearm and shoulder will start again. By 5pm it'll feel like someone's run a hot poker all the way up your arm. Welcome to the world of RSI.


You've begun to dread Mondays because it means the pain in your wrist, forearm and shoulder will start again. By 5pm it'll feel like someone's run a hot poker all the way up your arm. Welcome to the world of RSI.

Millions of people who work on computers share your suffering, even though many companies are slowly waking up to the notion that it might be in their best interests to help their employees escape Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI).

But for now, you're probably better off taking care of or yourself. Here are a few things you should be doing.

Firstly, don’t let anyone tell you RSI is a myth – it’s not. It’s caused by something called microtrauma, gradual injury that little by little builds into something debilitating. It also has something to do with repeated minor movements that allow the build-up of waste products in the tissues.

It may take months of poor posture or a constant, repetitive motion before you feel any pain. But when you do, it’ll feel like burning, stabbing, aching, shooting or tingling, or that your muscles are tied in knots.

There’s a lot you can do, though. Develop the habit of stretching regularly, Stretch your arms out in front of you, interlock your fingers and flip your hands so that your palms face away from you. Slowly raise your arms above your head. That gets the blood flowing, which will help free the tissues of toxins.

Shift your seating position and resist the urge to slide down into a slouch, even if it feels temporarily comfortable. Rather stand up and touch your toes.

One of the main causes of strain is a lack of support for the wrist. Get yourself (Or coerce your employer to acquire) an ergonomic keyboard that provides wrist support.

Keep your wrist in neutral - not cocked at any angle at all. Move your arm from the elbow, not the wrist. Avoid typing on a laptop keyboard. Rather plug in a proper keyboard and use that.

Depending on the nature of your work and your bank account or your relationship with your boss, you might benefit from voice recognition software. Some people find it more trouble than it’s worth, though.

Your monitor should be directly in front of you and the top should be level with your eyes, or only slightly lower. It should be about an arm’s length away, no more.

Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned in a way that keeps your wrists straight. Your wrists should be slightly lower than your elbows.

Your chair should be able to do the things that office chairs can, like swivel and roll. It should be able to fit under your desk enough for you to rest your elbows on the desk. - (William Smook)


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