Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury

Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury
February 6, 2012 No Comments » Arms and Hands, Injury Prevention, Neck and Shoulders, Repetitive Strain Injury Brian Fulton


Overuse of any area of the body can lead to a repetitive strain injury (RSI), also known as cumulative trauma. One way of looking at this is that the body area is being used so much that the body has trouble keeping up with tissue oxygen needs, and then inflammation ensues. What follows are some easy suggestion to implement into your work space to minimize the risk of developing this stubborn condition.

  1. Adjust your workstation. Make sure your working position is within ergonomic guidelines.
    • If seated, thighs and forearms should be parallel to the ground, feet supported, neck in neutral position, not tilted forward, spinal curves balanced.
    • If standing, forearms should be parallel to the floor, footrest for one foot (alternating), neck and spine in neutral, balanced position.
    • Avoid slouching if sitting. Avoid locking your knees if standing.
    • Imagine a force directly over your head lifting you up into an ideal postural position.
    • Adjust your chair so that it supports your spine in an erect position.
  2. Take short stretching breaks every half hour. You can get software for your computer reminding you to stretch at regular intervals at Big Stretch Reminder, or by typing “stretchware” into your search engine.
  3. Alternate jobs and work positions. Even ideal posture, if it is static, can lead to R.S.I.
  4. Rest times and breaks are important, however a muscle is not on a break if it is still working. (Supporting a coffee cup for fifteen minutes is not a break for most arm muscles)  
  5.  Make sure that your hands and fingers are not cold. – If they are: dress more warmly, try fingerless gloves, or adjust your work environment.
  6. Avoid pressure at endangerment sites on your body (wrists, elbows, front and back of knees)
  7. Move with an even motion. Avoid snapping the wrist or jerking against outside forces.
  8. Break up exposures to vibration
  9. Notice any exertions you have to make and see if they can be eliminated.
  10. Do not maintain a position or a task if you are experiencing pain, fatigue or soreness.
  11. Try to work with your joints in a neutral position (not twisted, or at the end of their range of motion.)
  12. For repetitive tasks, try to use large muscle groups if possible (trunk muscles instead of arm muscles)
  13. Get plenty of regular, vigorous exercise.
  14. Do appropriate upper-body stretching and strengthening exercises.
  15. Computer users- avoid using mouse and trackball whenever possible. Use keystrokes instead.
  16. Cut down on computer use whenever possible. As little as 2 hours a day can put you at increased risk of a R.S.I.
  17. Consider your sleeping position. If your arm is asleep when you wake up you are greatly increasing your risk of R.S.I.
  18. Consider any non-work activities that could be contributing to, or causing R.S.I.s.
  19. Leave voice-mail instead of sending e-mail.
  20. Go for a walk or see a movie instead of playing video games.
  21. Look something up in a book instead of searching the Web.
  22. Listen to your body. It will tell you when it is time for a stretching break, or task change, if you don’t mentally shut out the messages.


Finally, see a medical professional as soon as symptoms present themselves. Remember that R.S.I.s are easier to prevent than to treat. Once started they tend to be self-sustaining unless lifestyle changes are made.


About The Author
Brian Fulton Brian Fulton has been a Massage Therapist in Ontario Canada since 1999. His approach toward health and the human body is broad and holistic in nature. Brian is also the author of The Placebo Effect in Manual Therapy: Improving Clinical Outcomes (available on Amazon)