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 Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Also known as: Upper Limb Disorder, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

As wrist pain in some form becomes more prevalent, it is important to take whatever preventative measures will help. The following products have been designed to alleviate some of the uneccesary pressures that result from using computer keyboards and mice.

(Typical conditions - RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, work related upper limb disorder)



What is RSI?
This can be a serious and very painful condition that is far easier to prevent than to cure once contracted, and can occur even in young, physically fit individuals.  As more and more work, education and recreation involves computers, everyone needs to be aware of the hazards of nerves, muscles and tendons of the hands and arms resulting from the use of computer keyboards and mice.

It is not uncommon for people to have to leave computer-dependent careers as a result, or even to be disabled and unable to perform tasks such as driving or dressing themselves.

RSI occurs when repeated physical movements cause damage to tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues. The rise of computer use and flat, light-touch keyboards that permit high speed typing has resulted in an epidemic of injuries of the hands, arms, and shoulders, particular in text intensive professions such as journalism.  Use of pointing devices like mice and trackballs are as much a cause, if not more so.

The thousands of repeated keystrokes and long periods of clicking, clutching and dragging with mice slowly causes damage to the body. This can happen even more quickly as a result of poor typing technique and posture that place unnecessary stress on the tendons and nerves in the hand, wrist, arms, and even the shoulders and neck.  Lack of adequate rest and breaks and using excessive force almost guarantee trouble at some stage.


The Warning Signs - Symptoms

  • Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness or burning in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms, or elbows
  • Tingling, coldness, pins and needles or numbness in the fingers, hands or arms
  • Acute pain when you lift anything, even something very light, or turn something such as a door handle
  • Clumsiness or loss of strength and coordination in the hands
  • Pain that wakes you up at night
  • Feeling a need to massage your hands, wrists, and arms
  • Aches or pain in the upper back, shoulders, or neck associated with using the computer.

Prevention Posture, Technique and Aids

  • Correct your typing technique and posture. The right equipment setup, having your desk and chair at the right height and good work habits are even more important for prevention than using ergonomic appliances like split keyboards or wrist rests. Anything that creates awkward reaches or angles in the body will create problems.
  • Your feet should be able to lie flat on the floor.  If not use a footrest. Your upper and lower arm should be at right angles and your head should be pointing very slightly downwards
  • Relax, move and shift positions frequently. This isn't just about your hands and arms - the use or misuse of your shoulders, back and neck may be even more important than what's happening down at your wrists.
  • While you are actually typing your wrists should not drop down, and should not be bent up or to the side. Your arms should move your hands around instead of resting your wrists and stretching to hit keys with the fingers. When you stop typing for a while, rest your hands in your lap and/or on their sides instead of leaving them on the keyboard
  • Wrists also should not be bent to the side but instead your fingers should be in a straight line with your forearm as viewed from above.
    Tilt the back edge of your keyboard down, away from you.
  • Increase your font sizes. Even with ever-larger monitors, many people favour tiny little fonts in their desktops and applications. This encourages one to hunch forward into the monitor to read things, putting pressure on nerves and blood vessels in the neck and shoulders. (This is 10 pt many people prefer 12 pt.)
    Use two hands to perform double-key operations like Ctrl-C or Alt-F, instead of twisting one hand to do it. Move your whole hand to hit Function keys with your strong fingers instead of stretching to reach them.
  • Take lots of breaks to stretch and relax. This means both momentary breaks every few minutes and longer breaks every hour or so. Pace and plan your computer work. Fidgeting is a good thing.
  • Keep your arms and hands warm. Cold muscles and tendons are at much greater risk.
  • Reduce computer usage. No amount of ergonomic changes, special keyboards or exercise, is going to help if you are simply typing more than your body can cope with.
  • Don't tuck the telephone between your shoulder and ear so that you can type and talk on the phone at the same time. This common procedure is very aggravating for your neck, shoulders, and arms. If you must do both these tasks together - get a headset that is compatible with your phone system.
  • Take care of your eyes. Eyestrain is also a related, widespread problem that should be addressed at the same time you are setting up your computer for healthier use.
  • Hold the mouse lightly, don't grip it hard or squeeze it. Place the pointing device where you don't have to reach up or over very far to use it.  Close to the keyboard is best. Better yet, learn and use keyboard equivalent commands.
  • Try using a larger mouse to ease the strain on your fingers and wrists. Consider a trackball or touchpad mouse as an alternative.
  • Consider a curved keyboard which keeps your arms slightly curved and elbows in, reducing tension in this area.
  • Sit in a chair that has adjustable height, back support and armrests.
  • For smaller people or for those with shorter legs, a footrest is an inexpensive way to sit more comfortably

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We stock a large range of products that are ergonomically designed to help prevent RSI or to alleviate symptoms if the user has already contracted the condition. Click Products for RSI

We would specifically suggest the following:

Mice: AirObic MouseEvoluent Mouse, Vertical Grip Mouse

Wrist rests/Mouse mats: Gel Wrist Rests and Gel Mouse Mats

Keyboards: GoldTouch Ergonomic Split KeyboardFujitsu-Siemens Split KeyboadSafetype keyboard, Maltron Ergonomic Keyboard, Microsoft Natural Keyboard

Foot rests: Kensington Solesoother, Kensington Solemate

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There are a huge number of sites that deal with all aspects of RSI. Here are three of them:

The Repetitive Strain Injury Association website. Thorough advice

e-stretch, concentrates on physical exercises

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 Useful resources


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