How many times an hour to you make the same hand and arm movements at work? Dozens at least. And, very likely, you always pretty much sit, move around the computer and move the mouse the same way every time.
If your work position isn’t in proper alignment, then you are gradually creating a repetitive stress injury (RSI). Caused by repetitive movements of the hands, arms and shoulders, this condition can gradually evolve into something quite painful.
When you make the wrong movements, even slightly off alignment, the blood flow to the muscles is reduced. As this pattern sets in and continues to repeat, tendons move over ligaments and bones, and they become inflamed. In the worst case scenario, you could develop something called a pinched nerve in your lower back or your neck. The repetitive pattern has the power to turn a small pain into a full fledged problem that could become serious enough to require surgery.
If you have RSI, the first symptoms would be acute pain in the muscles of your shoulders, wrists and arms. The condition would continue even after you have stopped the activity. You may also have a pain that seems to run up the arm to the shoulder like waves. Or you may feel a tingling sensation or numbness in one area. This aspect is scary, especially if your fingers going numb affect your typing speed.
As the pain increases, it does not stop even after you leave work. You would feel pain, no matter how small the tasks you are attending are. Numbness and pain can also impact the quality of your sleep. The pain could be bad enough to force you to give up activities you normally enjoy, such as cooking, playing sports and sewing. Pain went from being occasional and only present while you were at work, to constant.
The time to deal with repetitive stress injury is at the first sign of pain. You shouldn’t sit in any other way than straight on your chair. Leaning or slouching is bad for your back and puts you out of alignment to the keyboard. Arrange your keyboard height so that your elbows are bent and wrists are not bent as you type. You might want to purchase a gel filled wrist rest from an office supply store. You can even get a smaller gel wrist rest for your mouse. Beware of placing your mouse anywhere higher than your keyboard, since those movements put a lot of stress on the shoulders. That’s really rough on your shoulder joint.
Try to remove your hand from the mouse or keyboard when you are not typing. Once or twice each hour, you should exercise your wrists for about a minute. Try moving your hand up and down, and bending your elbow to move your arm. Other RSI exercises can be found online.
You should take action to change your pattern before repetitive stress syndrome gets worse. This problem has the potential to evolve into carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and bursitis, so you really should take it seriously. RSI is definitely different than just any pain, and it can lead to workplace disability.
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