What is repetitive strain injury and how do you prevent it?

The computer keyboard has contributed to the increase in the incidence of repetitive strain injury (RSI). As its name indicates, this disorder can develop when someone does the same movement over and over.

A common type of RSI is carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the hands and wrists. Because computer keyboards do not require typists to change positions often, tendons and muscles in the hands and wrists have to bear great stress.

To prevent injury, make sure your arms and hands are positioned correctly at the keyboard: Your upper arms should hang vertically, and your forearms should be horizontal (or slightly above that angle). Keep your wrists straight, rather than bending them up or down. You may need to adjust your chair and keyboard height. If your desk is too high, use a keyboard drawer, which attaches to the desk’s underside, unless it gives you too little leg room.

Use your whole arm to move the computer’s mouse; don’t just bend your wrist.

When you have momentary pauses (as when reading the screen), take your hands off the keyboard and mouse.

Take hourly breaks to stretch overused muscles. Exercise the hands, wrists, and fingers.

Consult a doctor if you have discomfort or loss of sensation in the hand – untreated, RSI’s can lead to chronic pain and disability. Do not buy your own hand splint without first seeing a doctor, because an improper splint can cause even more damage.