Repetitive stress injuries have become an increasingly common problem in the office. If your job requires you to perform repeated tasks or motions for several hours throughout the day, such as typing or clicking a mouse, you may be at risk of developing a repetitive stress injury (RSI). While an RSI can start out as a seemingly minor problem, it can quickly develop into a painful injury that may prevent you from properly doing your job. Knowing the common types of RSI and their causes can help you to protect yourself from the risk of a repetitive strain injury.
Types of RSI's
An RSI develops when a repetitive motion aggravates a nerve, muscle, soft tissue, tendon, or blood vessel. These body parts can become inflamed from repeated use, leading to acute pain and restricted movement. Some of the common types of injuries that computer users should watch for include:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The “tunnel” in the wrist that houses nerves to the hand becomes swollen, putting pressure on sensitive nerves. Common symptoms include tingling, numbness, and pain in the wrist, hand, and first three fingers.
Cervical Radiculopathy: Spinal discs in the neck become compressed and pinch a nerve, causing pain or numbness in the neck. This injury can be caused by cradling a phone between one’s shoulder and ear for long periods of time, or otherwise straining the neck while writing or typing.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: This injury is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, except the ring finger and pinky finger are affected. It is caused when pressure is put on the Ulnar nerve along the elbow, causing pain or loss of sensation in the fingers, hand, or arm.
Dystonia: Known more commonly as “writer’s cramp”, occurs when a person’s hand or fingers tense up and spasm involuntarily. This is a common injury among workers who type or write frequently.
Ganglion Cyst: When soft tissues surrounding the finger or wrist joints become swollen, a cyst will form over the irritated area. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can restrict your movement and may be painful, especially if located on a joint.
Raynaud’s Disease: The blood supply to the hands becomes cut off by inflammation or pinching of a blood vessel in the wrist. Tingling and pain may result and a person’s fingers may turn blue due to restricted blood flow.
All of these repetitive stress injuries may result from repeated activities such as writing, typing, or clicking a mouse. Because an RSI typically develops from poor posture or technique, learning how to properly position one’s body at the computer and practicing good technique daily can greatly reduce the risk of developing an RSI. Using ergonomic office furniture can also help to lower your risk by promoting good posture and proper typing technique in the office.
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