Research shows that for years there has been an increase in physical complaints related to screen use. The complaints that occur most frequently are RSI, repetitive strain injuries. In the Netherlands, some 3.2 million working people suffer from RSI. But what exactly is RSI and how can you prevent these complaints? And what makes break software a weapon in the fight against RSI?
A closer look at RSI
RSI stands for ‘Repetitive Strain Injuries’. In other words, it means: complaints caused by repeated movements. RSI is an umbrella term for various upper-body overuse complaints. The complaints can occur in the upper back, neck and shoulder area, arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers. You probably already know some of the well-known RSI complaints. These include tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, golfer’s elbow and mouse arm.
Small and large muscles overloaded
With monitor work, strain is mainly due to typing and using a computer mouse. This is because it puts dynamic and repetitive strain on the small forearm muscles and tendons in the hand and wrist. Using these small muscles and tendons intensively can cause overloading. In addition to repetitive movements, screen work causes static strain on the large muscles in the upper back, neck and shoulders. Sitting in one position for a long time with increased muscle tension reduces blood flow and will also sour these large muscles and thus cause pain.
How can you recognise RSI complaints?
According to Jip Driehuizen & Carien Karsten (in their book “How to handle RSI”), RSI is present when:
The complaints persist longer than about six weeks. There is pain or an unpleasant, vague or numb sensation or tingling in at least 1 of the following locations: a certain spot between the shoulder blades, in the shoulder muscle, around the shoulder joint, around the elbow (left, right or both), in the forearm (back, front or both), in the wrist or in one or more fingers. The symptoms quickly tend to get worse while making fine movements and when sitting in the same position for a long time. Most commonly mentioned situations in which they appear are: computer work and driving.
Often the pain worsens after activity. The complaints are provoked when applying force with the hands (wringing, lifting). The complaints manifest themselves in tense conditions (when stressed). RSI complaints often arise during or immediately after a period of busyness or stress. They usually start locally: cramping or a nagging pain in certain muscles or tendons. These complaints can increase if you don’t take steps. For instance, you may experience radiations like tingling or numbness in the fingers. Eventually, it can even lead to loss of strength.
The power of relaxation and movement
Prevention is better than cure for RSI too. In the fight against RSI, it is important to make sure your body does not become overloaded. You do this by not working too long and taking regular breaks during your working day. Even a short break allows muscles and tendons to relax and recover. This was you can change your working posture for a while. Even better is to leave your workplace altogether and move around. Moving improves the blood circulation in your entire body. This prevents the large muscle groups from souring.
It is important to regularly take some time for yourself during your working day and check in on your body, so to speak. Is everything still going well? A stiff neck or back often means “get moving”. Variety is the most important advice. It is good to take a break and do something completely different.
Break software as a weapon
Incorporate more relaxation and movement during your working day. It’s so obvious. You’re probably already aware of the benefits, but in practice pausing is often easier said than done. Because when you are working focused, time flies- and there, a few hours have already gone by in no time.
Fortunately, there are several tools that can help you to take breaks during your working day and to fight RSI. Quite simply using a timer or alarm clock can be enough for some to keep working healthily. But you can also choose to use special break software. Then a break tool gives you reminders during work to take a moment to relax and move around. If break software is adapted to your needs and your way of working, it functions as support in your new work behaviour and weapon against RSI. Relaxing and moving around at work thus becomes a healthy habit!
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