RSI: An overlooked type of injury

RSI: An overlooked type of injury

A great mind once said, ‘we are what we repeatedly do’.  It is our habits that define not only our character but also our physical health.  Bad form in any repetitive motion will eventually lead to injury.  When this happens, it’s called RSI, a Repetitive Stress Injury from overuse of tendons, muscles nerves and other soft body tissues.  RSI can act as a gateway for a host of other problems including, carpal tunnel, tendonitis and bursitis.  While you are reading this you are in front of a computer or mobile screen and that’s where a common RSI occurs:  typing and hand movements associated with keyboards and mobile devices.  Over time, a thousand keystrokes can add up to injury if your positioning is putting too much strain on your wrists.  An RSI is a condition that is much easier to prevent than it is to fix, so here are some things you can do to stay injury-free while typing.

Positioning is key

Keep your wrists neutral.  As you type, make sure your hands are slightly elevated above your wrists and that your wrists are not resting on the keyboard or table.  Think of a straight line from your hands to your forearm, keeping your wrists straight in that line.  The idea is to remove the cumlitive strain of tiny movement away from wrists by keeping them as neutral as possible.

No Reaching!

Avoid single reaches with one hand that might put extra strain on the wrist. Anything that creates awkward positioning will create problems over time, so find ways to use both hands for key commands.

Keep a light touch

Type lightly. The extra force you use to pound the keys will put more strain on your wrists and is unnecessary.

Keep your hands and arms warm

Your body is at higher risk for injury when it’s cold.  Your wrists are no different.  Typing in a cold environment, like an air conditioned workspace, may elevate the risk for a typing-related RSI. It’s the same reason an athlete warms up before a workout: warmer muscles and tendons are more elastic and less susceptible to strain.

Take Breaks

One of the most important things you can do is take breaks. A great habit to start is putting your knuckles down on the table in between typing spurts.  If you are taking time to think, let your hands rest.You should also be taking breaks for overall health, (see Sitting is the New Smoking) which will also give your hands and wrists a chance to rest as well. Listen to your body! Pain is there to tell you that something is wrong.

If you think you may be developing symptoms related to RSI, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment strategy.Typing may be unavoidable, but developing an RSI doesn’t have to be.  Set these typing habits in place now so you can keep your wrists injury-free.