Repetitive strain injury or RSI is a painful and debilitating condition that results from repetitive tasks, such as typing, writing, or clicking on a mouse or using a gaming console. Anyone who uses the computer for hours (like gamers) can relate to the injury. Unfortunately, the majority of the population is unaware of what RSI is and how severe it can get. Fortunately, we are here to educate you on RSI and what you can do to treat or prevent it.
What is Repetitive Stress Injury?
Repetitive stress injury or RSI is an injury that originates from repetitive or forceful movements of the hand. These repetitive movements can cause damage to the tendons, muscles, and nerves that can lead to weakness, pain, numbness, and impair movement control. If you are constantly typing or clicking on a mouse, it can be very harmful. The repetitive movement that occurs for hours or days can add up and lead to a strain on your tendons and muscles. Injured muscles will start contracting, decreasing in range of movement, and you will begin experiencing pain and numbness. The sheath that covers the tendons, often helps lubricate the movements, so it acts as a shock absorber and prevents inflammation. Through repetitive movement, however, the sheath can run out of lubrication, so the tendons will start rubbing against the bones and each other resulting in severe pain and inflammation. Because of this abrasion, it can also affect nearby nerves leading to numbness and tingling sensations. Keep in mind that repetitive strain injury is not just about hands and wrist, but it can affect the posture, neck, and back as well. Since RSI is not a specific diagnosis but rather a family of disorder, many people tend to mistake it with carpal tunnel syndrome. For this reason, it is imperative to see a doctor when you experience tingling or pain from over-usage. The doctor can conduct a physical examination to help you pinpoint the exact underlying cause.
Risk of RSI
Various risk factors can make you vulnerable to RSI. The most common ones are:
Poor technique, poor posture, using the computer for more than 2-4 hours each day, long hours of gaming, not taking frequent breaks, having a job that requires constant computer usage, loose joints, lack of exercise, having arthritis, diabetes, or other medical conditions, high-pressure environment, unhealthy or stressful sedentary lifestyle, keeping your fingernails long, lack of sleep, obesity, the fear of asking for accommodation, and being in denial about your risk.
Symptoms of RSI
If you are curious about whether or not you have RSI, then here are the common symptoms of RSI: If you experience fatigue, weakness, numbness, tingling, heaviness, clumsiness, lack of strength, cold hands, hypersensitivity, or sensitivity to pain, then it’s time to see a doctor.
How Do You Prevent Repetitive Stress Injury?
If you want to avoid experiencing pain and tingling, then we have some strategies that you can make use of to prevent repetitive stress injury.
The Gelliflex® Abacus® is a gel-ball trigger point and massage self-care device that can massage your hand, thumb, elbow, fingers, and arms. It can help alleviate overuse areas to reduce inflammation and pain. Made of our proprietary rubbery material called Gelliprene®, the Abacus® balls are explicitly designed for a better tactile and therapeutic feel. They come in three different firmnesses so the user can customize the appropriate pressure and compression based on their need.
For the gamers out there, did you know that according to Matt Hwu of 1HP, 90% of the time, the pain you are feeling from gaming is due to repetitive strain or overuse? Using the Gelliflex®Abacus® can really help to provide relief from aches and pains, and protect you from potential dangers related to repetitive stress and overuse.
Check out our Compression Therapy video to learn more about ways that the Gelliflex® Abacus® can help to relieve pain instantly.
Related: The Gelliflex® Abacus®: Ideal for Gamers.
Take good care of your body
Since RSI often occurs in the workaholic individual, it’s essential to take some time away from your work to get some exercise, meditation, and to eat something healthy. Keep in mind that additional fatty tissue can add weight to your tendons, ligaments, and nearby nerves, making you vulnerable to RSI, especially if you are frequently using the computer.
Posture is one of the most common causes of RSI in the neck, head, and back region. The best way to improve posture is to make sure that your workstation is at the proper level, so you don’t extend or strain any part of your body. Another way to assist with good posture is by participating in yoga. A yoga class can help to stretch out the muscles and improve the structure and function of your body as well as increase core strength. Proper preventive measures can help reduce the possibility of repetitive strain injuries from occurring.
A hand brace can help stabilize your hands while you type on the computer or use the mouse. It can reduce RSI while you slay away in your work.
Set up your station
Properly setting up your workstation is essential to make sure that your keyboard, mouse, and monitor are secure in a way that prevents RSI. Try positioning your keyboard above your thigh or shoulder, so that it’s easy to reach. Your forearm should run parallel to the ground. If your elbows create more than a 90° angle, then you can quickly get exhausted. Also, the mouse should be placed on one side of your keyboard so that you don’t have to stretch, lean, or hunch over. The monitor should be directly in front of you at eye level. That way, you don’t strain your neck when you look up or down at the monitor.
Proper typing technique
A proper typing technique can make a big difference in your life. You want to keep your wrist straight and let your hands float. Make sure you don’t rest your wrist on the keyboard, so you don’t strain the muscles on your wrist. If you need to push hard to reach keys like shift, ctrl, or backspace, make sure that you don’t stretch your pinky. Instead, try moving your entire hand and use your index or middle finger to push the key. That way, the repetitive movements won’t leave your hands feeling like they have just run a marathon.
What To Do If You Have Repetitive Stress Injuries
If you are a gamer on into esports and experience RSI, there are things that you can do to help alleviate the pain or tingling sensation.
If you start experiencing symptoms after typing for hours or days, then it’s essential to stop. It’s important to take breaks between your activity to mitigate the pain that you’re feeling. When you rest, your tendons and ligaments will slowly recover, and it gives your body a chance to reduce the inflammation process.
You can schedule an appointment to see a massage therapist to massage certain areas in your body that you’ve been using too much. The massage can help reduce the tension and muscle aches, therefore relax your joints to alleviate some pain.
If you can’t make it to a massage therapist, don’t get discouraged. Some home remedies tools allow you to give yourself a massage to essential areas. The Gelliflex® Abacus® is ideal for such situations, explicitly designed for a better tactile and therapeutic feel.
Check out what makes our Gelliprene® massage balls so special.
A good trick to get rid of tingling is to get two buckets of water, one with hot water and the other with ice-cold water. Keep in mind that you want to keep the hot or cold temperatures at a level that you can handle. The last thing you want is burns or frostbite. Dip your hands in one bucket for two minutes, and the other for another two minutes. The goal is to alternate back and forth until the tingling stops. The theory behind this is that lymph vessels contract when they are exposed to cold water, and relax when they are exposed to hot water. The hot water creates the vasodilation of your blood flow, immediately followed by vasoconstriction of cold water- an increase in blood circulation.
A physical therapist can examine the overused part of your body and find a strategic exercise for you to partake daily to mitigate the pain. With the help of the therapist, you will learn new activities that can help get rid of RSI.
If the pain is very severe, to the point where nothing helps, then it’s time to call your healthcare provider. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and some imaging studies to find the underlying cause. You might need a surgical procedure if the overuse activity has resulted in significant ligament or tendon damage.
Complications of RSI
If you have RSI but decide to ignore the symptoms, then there can be some serious repercussions. Some people with long-term RSI claim they are unable to open doors, do laundry, prepare food, or write. Eventually, these issues can significantly reduce your day to day activity and decrease your independence. Unfortunately, RSI is not considered a disability and is thus not covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. You will, therefore, be ineligible to receive additional help or assistance from the government in such a case. This also means that your employer can fire you if you are unable to perform your task because of RSI. Some universities might be a little bit accommodating, but not all of them. With this in mind, you ultimately want to make sure that you spend time treating or preventing RSI before it escalates.
Related: Hand Rolling On The Abacus®.
With all this information about RSI, you'll be able to know how to prevent it and what to do if you get it. If push comes to show and you have tried all the supportive methods, and the pain or symptoms persist, then it's time to see a doctor. Because RSI, carpal tunnel,cubital and radial syndromes often have very similar symptoms, it will require a medical expert to help differentiate them and to make sure you are utilizing the right treatment. Keep in mind that the best way to combat RSI is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Make sure you get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat healthily. You can also wear a hand brace to help prevent muscle cramps and pain from over-usage. The hand brace can stabilize your hand to keep it healthy and robust. Or find an at home self-care massage tool like the Gelliflex® Abacus® to help with preventative massage. RSI can be very debilitating, but with these tips and strategies, you won't have to be its next victim.
Related: Hand Compression On The Abacus®.