[Last Edited: 08/10/20]
Managing Repetitive Strain at Work
Repetitive Strain injury in common in office based work where lots of typing is required and with manual work involving repeated activity. If dealt with early enough, many strains like this can be managed well at work, including early support for a tired joint and pacing activities to reduce over-straining.
Activities that involve repeated lifting, gripping or typing without support are some of the most common repeated activities that cause strain, we'll go into some detail here.
Repetitive Strain: What is it?
Repetitive Strain Injury is an umbrella term which refers to many upper limb conditions that include: trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. The symptoms include muscle aches, pain and tension which also extend into the joints, tendons, nerves throughout the upper arm, and into the neck.
We start to see these signs with increased use of electronic equipment, computers, laptops, tablets, ipads and smartphones, games consoles and writing. Anything repetitive action comes with the possibility of leading to RSI, remember how achy you can feel after a day of painting or a day in the garden cutting the hedge. This is enough to trigger the irritation in the joint, tendon or muscle and can be sustained if the movement or action is not modified.
Is it Common?
Yes. Repetitive Strain Injury is very common in many countries including USA, Australia and the UK. The health category for Musculoskeletal disorders account for up to almost 30% of workplace injuries and lost work days. What’s even most astonishing is that treatment and management can be very hard to discuss and address with employers. Some employees have reported that even after 6 weeks off work they may struggle to get a workplace assessment and have their ergonomics adjusted at their desk. Unfortunately this adds to the stress of the condition and increases the likelihood of long term effects and pain.
The key to management is identification of the provoking activity and modifying it.
Tennis Elbow symptoms - be aware of tightly gripping things and loosen where possible, Alter between activities to reduce time doing the same thing over, wear a support on the elbow to improve tension and overload.
Carpal tunnel syndrome - review your work station for opportunities to add more support including arm rests and wrist rest on your keyboard, change the type of computer mouse to rest the hand, wear a support brace to keep the carpal tunnel neutral.
Neck and Shoulder Pain - review posture and strength, identify any equipment used regularly and look at upgrading to items that support good neutral positions and postures.
As a summary:
Be mindful of position, posture and repetition.
Seek help early through physiotherapy or your GP. Essential Wellness offers consultation and complete ergonomic assessments.
If it’s an activity that you can’t limit or stop then a support brace will limit the aggravating movement.
Management looking to reduce staff sick days should offer staff who engage in high demand activities additional support to prevent sick days and help them back to work sooner. Email Anna, for further advice.