Working Online Can Cause Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
It is thanks to the latest technology that working from home is possible. With the internet and a home computer, you can effectively launch your business without ever leaving your house. But working with computers for long periods of time is not without its problems.
In a traditional office environment, businesses work hard to make sure that every employee is fit and healthy. However, a number of employees still find themselves encountering Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a painful, uncomfortable problem that can make typing and other manual tasks impossible.
Now think about the time that your average home business owner spends working with a computer. It is easy to see why freelancers and home workers are even more likely to encounter this horrible condition.
Your business is important, but your health matters too. Read on to find out more about repetitive strain injury, learn about the most common causes, and discover practical ways to reduce your chances of RSI.
What Is Repetitive Strain Injury?
Whenever someone repeats a manual task for long periods of time and finds themselves in discomfort, they often blame a bout of RSI. In fact, RSI is not a specific medical condition – it is a term used to describe the symptoms and the cause.
Repetitive strain injury is any pain or discomfort that occurs as a result of repetitive movement. According to the RSI Awareness Website, almost half a million people in the UK encounter some kind of RSI each year.
RSI can affect the nerves, muscles or tendons, with patients noticing pain in the wrist, neck, shoulders, or elbow. Sometimes, RSI can be linked to more specific medical conditions. There are two types of RSI:
RSI Type 1
Repetitive Strain Injury Type 1 is used to describe the general symptoms and causes of a precise medical condition. After looking at your symptoms and conduct a full diagnosis, a medical professional can identify your RSI as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or bursitis.
If you have swapping around the affected area, you may have another condition that has caused your pain and discomfort. Thankfully, these types of RSI are reliably easy to treat.
RSI Type 2
Repetitive Strain Injury Type 2 is a much more difficult problem to mitigate. Doctors describe RSI as type 2 when they are unable to diagnose a specific medical condition. Of course, without a specific diagnosis, it can be difficult to advise specific medical treatment.
Causes Of Repetitive Strain Injury
To avoid developing RSI, you need to understand how it happens. Rather obviously, the most significant cause is repetitive motion.
When any joint or muscle in the body repeats the similar motion again and again, it will absolutely become stressed and inflamed. If inflammation occurs, your movement will become even more restricted and, ultimately, a worsening cycle of RSI begins.
However, repetitive motion for prolonged periods is not the only factor involved in RSI.
Your overall posture as you sit at your desk will have an impact on your chances of getting RSI. Although symptoms may occur in the wrists and limbs, these symptoms can actually be caused by the position of your back and how this affects the overall performance of your body.
In addition, environmental factors such as temperature can make your symptoms worse. Even stress is thought to be linked to repetitive strain injury and its related medical conditions.
So, if you are a stressed freelancer or business owner that works at a computer for prolonged periods, you are at heightened risk of getting RSI.
Tips For Avoiding Repetitive Strain Injury
People that work from home or run home businesses have a strong chance of encountering RSI at some point in their working lives. Unfortunately, we are also the people that can not afford to do less, take a few days off, or get away from the desk. The best advice is to avoid repetitive strain injury in the first place. Here are some suggestions that you should use to keep your working environment safe!
1. Set Up Your Desk And Chair For Best Posture
RSI is rarely attributed to the specifics of how you put your hands, wrists and limbs on to the keyboard or desk. In fact, RSI is caused by wider problems with your overall posture. In the workplace, employers are obliged to train staff on how to sit correctly at a desk. You should follow similar advice.
First, it goes without saying that you should be working at a desk and sitting on a chair with full back support. Although as your business gets up and running you may be happy to relax on the sofa, this should never become your daily working routine.
For your chair, make sure that your feet touch the ground. In addition, sit right back in the chair so that your lower back is supported. Once your chair is adjusted to the right position, make sure that your screen is around eye-level. This may mean buying a stand for your laptop if applicable, or adjusting the height of your monitor.
Finally, organize your desk so that everything that you need is within easy reach. You should never have to overreach or twist to answer the phone, or grab your cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee …
2. Take Regular Breaks
Most people that work from home love the benefit of being able to take breaks whenever they need to. Although it's never advisable to fill yourself with coffee or snacks, look for excuses to move around your home and away from the office. As a minimum, you should give yourself one break in the morning, a long lunchtime, and a second break in the afternoon. Ideally, though, you will stop typing and move away from your desk whenever you get the chance.
A great tip is to move around any time that you are not typing. If you answer or make a phone call, why not chat as you walk around the house? If you need to think about a plan or strategy, do not do it from your desk. And finally, avoid the terrible habit of having breaks at your desk and using the time to check social media!
3. Look For Ways To Avoid Typing
There are many things that you can do to help your body cope with long periods of typing. Sometimes, there are simply no ways to avoid a lengthy spell at your desk with the fingers tapping on the keys. But just as technology has made the problem of RSI more common, the very latest technology helps to overcome the issue.
Dictation software is becoming increasingly sophisticated and, with smartphones, many people have a dictation tool in their pockets at all times. If you need to take notes for your reference, why not say them out loud into a dictaphone or recording device? Some software can even recognize what you are saying and transcribe it into a document for you.
Treating Your Repetitive Strain Injury
Even if you follow the above advice for avoiding RSI, you may still find yourself suffering the symptoms at one point or another. So what do you do? The most important answer is to visit your doctor. Repetitive strain injury is so common now that many people do not take the problem seriously. However, since RSI can be linked to a range of different conditions, the best suggestion is to seek the advice and insight of a medical professional.
Treatments such as acupuncture, Pilates, anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy can all help. If you think you have the symptoms of RSI, speak to your doctor to learn which ones are best for you.