Five Ways to Avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries

By Feb 27 , 20120 Comments

Some may think that injuries in the workplace only happen to those who work high-intensity jobs like construction workers, firefighters or police officers. But you’re probably unaware that sitting at your computer and typing – something you do every day – can leave you at risk for significant pain and discomfort.

Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) stem from prolonged, repetitive, forceful or awkward movements. If you thought that clicking your mouse or typing at a computer keyboard were harmless activities, think again. RSI can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful nerve injury. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers, pain that radiates from the hand up the forearm, weakness in the affected side and sometimes the tendency to drop objects. Left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers often resort to surgery, which is successful in about 50 percent of cases.

These injuries have lead to increased absenteeism, but companies have found ways to reduce that by studying ergonomics, which looks at how people use the tools crucial to their jobs. Employers have done that for good reason: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, RSI is the nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of American workers, and costing more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation.

If you are suffering from this type of injury, it can be detrimental to your ability to work.  Additionally, during an uncertain economy, people become anxious about taking time off to properly recover. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent RSI.

Make sure you are sitting properly at your desk. Short of getting an ergonomically correct chair for your desk, there are things you can do without spending a lot of money. The best sitting posture brings your knees at or above hip level. Add a foot rest to your desk setup to help accomplish this.

Add support for your wrists. Adding a wrist cushion for your mouse can help your hand stay at an appropriate angle when maneuvering your mouse.

Change your keyboard. It may look funny, but the keyboards that are split in the middle are most effective to keeping your wrists at the correct angle when typing. When you add a keyboard wrist cushion, you can make sure you stay ahead of any potential problems from carpal tunnel or RSI. One company, IMAK, makes mouse and keyboard cushions using ergoBeads, which can massage your wrists while typing or using your mouse. The design conforms to your keyboard and mouse, while completely supporting your wrist and forearm in an ergonomically correct position. This reduces stress in your hands, wrists and arms.

Move your computer screen. If you find yourself lurching to see your monitor, move it forward. Make sure your screen is at eye-level – a stand or phonebook underneath can add needed height.

Lower your keyboard. Most likely, your desk is at a good height for writing, but not necessarily optimal for typing. Add a keyboard tray under your desk to place your keyboard in an ergonomically appropriate place.

With a few easy steps, you can make your workspace ergonomically correct to solve potentially debilitating and costly injuries.