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Schedule mini-breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid repetition.... More>>
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Neck PainWhen you’re not at your computer, there are important steps you can take to prevent back and neck pain. When picking up heavy objects from the floor, bend at your knees, not your back, so your legs do the lifting, and carry objects close to your body at about waist level. Carrying a heavy bag with one hand or over one shoulder will strain the muscles that are responsible for keeping your spine in line. In order to avoid this, use a backpack to distribute weight evenly over both shoulders and use suitcases with wheels when traveling.

Avoid wearing high heels or platform shoes for extended periods because they distort the shape of the foot, throwing the back’s natural curves out of line. If you suffer lower back pain, lie on your back and bend your knees, which should take the pressure off your lower back.

Awkward sleeping positions can lead to a sore neck and back. Make sure your pillow is not too big or too small, but maintains the natural curve of the neck. A bed that doesn’t offer enough support can also be a source of neck discomfort. You should sleep on your side with your knees slightly bent because lying on your back tends to overarch your lower back, and lying on your stomach strains the neck. Doing stretching exercises before bed and first thing in the morning will help loosen you up and relieve tense muscles.


Repetitive Strain Injury results from forceful, awkward, and/or repetitive use of your limbs, producing damaged muscles, tendons, and nerves. The severity of RSI cases varies widely. Tendonitis is the most common example of RSI, while carpal tunnel syndrome is a more rare and serious disorder. RSI occurs frequently among computer users, musicians, lab workers, and other people with occupations requiring repetitive movements.

Although RSI is a broad term that encompasses several disorders, general symptoms include tingling or loss of sensation in fingers, inability to grasp objects between thumb and fingers, decrease in the size of hand muscles, and pain in the wrist, elbow, shoulder, or neck. If you’re suffering from these symptoms, get immediate medical attention to increase the chances of quick and total recovery. Discontinue the activities that cause you pain. If using a computer is painful, but necessary, try to vary your work activities so you’re not using the keyboard and mouse for long periods of time. You can make adjustments to your workstation to make yourself more comfortable .

In order to prevent RSI, adjust your desk and computer area to promote good posture. Remember that the human body is not made to sit still for long periods of time, so get up and move around as much as you can. This may involve taking 30-60 second breaks every ten minutes or so, and getting up to walk around and stretch your muscles every hour. You can also vary your motions by changing tasks. Type for a while, then read, take notes by hand, or organize papers. Stretching your wrists, shoulders, and neck will help reduce muscle tension. Roll your shoulders, rotate your head from one side to the other, massage your shoulders, and stretch your wrists by pulling the fingers back toward the wrist. When you’re typing, be sure not to bang on the keyboard, and avoid lazy wrists. Using a brace or taking pain relievers doesn’t deal with the primary cause of RSI and may lead to further injury.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and thoracic outlet syndrome are two of the most disabling repetitive strain injuries. These conditions are disorders of the tendons, nerves, arteries, or veins occurring at the wrist and upper arm, respectively. In CTS, repeated bending or use of the wrist and fingers results in the compression of the median nerve (runs along the palm side of the wrist) causing intermittent numbness, tingling, and pain in the side of the hand including the thumb through the inside of the ring finger. The hand’s communication with the brain is disrupted and the fingers have difficulty sensing temperature and gripping objects. Victims may also notice swelling of the hand and forearm. Pain and numbness in the fingers not only occur while typing, but also at night. The advanced stage is characterized by decreased muscle bulk in the thumb area and decreased sensation. If untreated, these symptoms can become chronic and permanently disabling, and may cause a change in one's lifestyle and career.

RSI Treatment

No matter how much you want symptoms to disappear quickly, treatment and healing cannot be rushed. Generally, the long process of treating RSI should be inspiration enough to prevent misuse or overuse. Rest is a key treatment, the duration of which correlates directly with the severity of the injury. Other interventions can include ergonomic adjustment, stretching, muscle strengthening, postural retraining and other physical therapy modalities.

Surgery is rarely necessary and it may not always bring complete relief. Keep in mind that severity of symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments vary from person to person. Splints, fancy and ergonomic keyboards, and wrist pads for computers are not the solution for RSI, although they may help if used properly. The best approach is to be aware of your own work habits, reasons for using a computer, symptoms of overuse, and ways to adjust your work area.

RSI-producing behaviors and how to correct them.

Behavior1: Excessive bend or extension of the wrists.

Correction: Wrists in a neutral position not resting on anything, unless one is not actively typing. Fingers in a straight line with the forearm, and the back edge of the keyboard tilted down.

Behavior2: Hunched or slouching posture.

Correction: Comfortable vertical torso with a chair supporting the lower back.

Behavior3: Sitting too far from the screen due to a document on one's lap.

Correction: A document holder adjacent to the monitor, sitting 20-24" away from the screen, and at 5-15 degrees below the horizontal line of sight.

Behavior4: Excessive bend or extension of the elbow.

Correction: Elbows positioned at a 90-degree angle by adjusting the chair and keyboard position.

Behavior5: Two-finger typing or punching the keys.

Correction: Soft touch-typing with proper technique.

Behavior6: Squeezing the mouse.

Correction: Lightly grasp the mouse and use two hands to perform key operations when possible.

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