How to Reduce Your Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

In 2021, 9% of men and 8.9% of women had a repetitive strain injury (RSI) within a 3-month period. This highlights how prevalent these injuries are, and it’s putting our musculoskeletal system in the ringer. But we need this system to perform so many important tasks.

The only way to prevent such a fate is to reduce your risk of repetitive strain injury. This article will teach you how to take care of your body. After all, you only get one per lifetime!

What is a Repetitive Strain Injury?

Photo by Tom Claes

A repetitive strain injury, often abbreviated as RSI, refers to a musculoskeletal condition caused by repetitive tasks, vibrations, or awkward positions. This action puts strain on your muscles, tendons, and nervous system leading to inflammation and discomfort over a period of time. 

Typical symptoms might include pain, stiffness, or tingling sensations in your affected body part. More commonly, RSI affects areas such as the neck, shoulders, hands, and wrists (think carpal tunnel syndrome) due to continuous computer use or manual labor. If you want to successfully reduce your risk of repetitive strain injury, you’ll need to understand this ailment fully. 

What Causes RSI?

RSI is primarily an occupational hazard, often linked to specific careers. Construction workers, warehouse workers, housekeepers, writers, and hairstylists are examples of jobs that cause stress injuries. But if your work involves regular computer use, heavy lifting, or any activity that needs continuous, precise motion, the risk of getting an RSI escalates significantly. 

You can get a repetitive strain injury in multiple parts of your body, but it often affects the:

  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Forearms
  • Hands
  • Fingers

Like similar stress injuries, symptoms start off small and gradually get worse. The pain may start as a burning, aching, or throbbing and eventually lead to swelling, numbness, and weakness.

7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury

Photo by Alora Griffiths

If you want an effective way to reduce your risk of RSI, then look towards prevention. Once you have a musculoskeletal injury, it can be hard to perform your work duties or hobbies.

1. Maintain Good Posture

Want to know the best way to reduce your risk of repetitive strain injury? Great posture! Several complications come with poor posture, including back pain, spinal dysfunction, rounded shoulders, joint degeneration, potbelly, and of course, injuries to our musculoskeletal system.

To maintain good posture, always remember to keep your back straight, and shoulders relaxed while working. Keep your head level and in line with your body, and be sure to pull in your abdomen. Bear weight on the balls of your feet and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. 

2. Eat a Balanced Diet

One important way to reduce your risk of repetitive strain injury is through eating a healthy diet. Consuming food rich with anti-inflammatory properties, like fruits and vegetables, alongside lean proteins aids healing while maintaining muscle health—all key factors in preventing RSI.

Some studies suggest that reducing meat and dairy intake can decrease the risk of injury. With that said, you’ll have to make sure you get all your vitamins and minerals, no matter your diet.

3. Have a Supportive Chair or Boots

Depending on the nature of your job, it’s essential to have appropriate support, be it a chair with adequate lumbar support or boots that provide ankle stability. These accessories help maintain proper alignment and reduce the risk of injury, whether you’re walking or sitting all day.

It’s more than worth it to spend some extra cash on these items, especially if you have certain mobility needs. For example, getting custom insoles will allow you to work longer without pain, and strategically placed back cushions will protect your back and shoulders from injury.

4. Use the Right Equipment

Ergonomically designed keyboards, mice, and other tools can significantly cut down strain. They are specially designed to keep your body in natural positions. This can drastically reduce your risk of RSI, especially if you also consistently use a mouse and keyboard when at home.

Construction workers, hair stylists, and other non-typing workers should also pay attention to the equipment they use. For example, a sheet metal worker should use the right metal snips for the type of materials they’re working with, while a hairstylist must find a comfortable pair of scissors.

5. Use a Headset for Calls

Constantly cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder leads to significant muscle tension. If you want to reduce your risk of RSI, opt for using headphones or headsets for lengthy calls. It’s preferable to use something with Bluetooth capabilities, as it allows for wireless movement.

If you’re driving all day, connect your phone to the radio, if possible. When you get a phone call, you can tap the button on your phone and speak to others without getting hurt or distracted.

6. Alternate Between Sitting and Standing

Prolonged periods in any one position can cause strain. Aim for an even mix of both throughout your day. An adjustable workstation can help you easily transition between sitting and standing. If you’re always standing (in the case of construction work), make sure you sit down regularly.

When standing, consider going for a walk to stretch your legs. And if you’re sitting, start doing some yoga. There are many yoga positions you can perform while lying down, but if this isn’t your style, try meditating. As long as you’re switching things up, you’re doing your body good.

7. Stretch Regularly

Regular stretching works wonders in keeping muscles flexible, thereby reducing strain risk tremendously. A simple regimen that targets key areas like the neck, shoulders, wrists, and hands should suffice. While yoga can be a part of your stretching routine, it doesn’t have to be.

When you find a moment, do some simple stretches on affected body parts. These include but aren’t limited to the forearms, chest, shoulders, upper and lower back, neck, and hip flexor.

Reduce Your Risk of RSI Today

There’s nothing scarier than getting an injury, especially while on the job. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of RSI if you use our tips. Don’t underestimate the value of protecting your musculoskeletal system, as you’ll need your bones and muscles for the rest of your life!

Featured Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya