Prevention and Management of RSI

Repetitive strain injury often starts gradually but can soon become severely debilitating. Here area number of ways in which the condition can be prevented – or the the worst symptoms of it alleviated.

Don’t ignore it

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) causes pain, weakness, tingling and stiffness of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or other soft tissues and joints in the upper limbs from neck to fingers. It is also called upper limb disorder, cumulative trauma disorder or occupational overuse syndrome. It often starts gradually and is worse when you’re at work, but it can take on a life of its own and become constant and debilitating. Prevent this by taking short, frequent breaks from repetitive tasks such as typing. Check the ergonomics of your work station and try not to slouch at your desk.

Use both hands

Correct typing is key to preventing RSI. Contorting the fingers of one hand to reach more than one key at once, especially if you’re typing one-handed while holding your phone against the other ear, is a recipe for muscle strain.

Get up

Try to get up from your desk every 30 minutes and move your neck and shoulders to release tension. A 10-minute break every hour (a stroll to the loo or to make a drink) is advised. One good tip is to time how long you can type before getting symptoms (e.g. pins and needles or muscle ache) and then set an alarm to stop typing 10 minutes before that time.


Stretching can help to prevent and manage RSI. The prayer stretch involves putting the palms of your hands together, pointing up; push to one side then the other for 15-30 seconds at a time. If stretches make RSI symptoms worse, see a physiotherapist for expert advice.

It’s in the wrist action

To prevent RSI, keep wrists straight and flat when typing. Sit with thighs level, feet flat on floor (or on footrest), sit up straight, shoulders relaxed, upper arms at sides, not splayed out, forearms horizontal or tilted slightly downwards, so knees and elbows are at a right angle. Keep the top of your screen at eye level and adjust the position of your keyboard so that it is easy to reach without stretching or hunching.

Assess your risk

Your employer should carry out a risk assessment when you join to check that your work area suits you. You can request an assessment if you haven’t had one or if you’re developing symptoms of RSI.

Treat yourself

There’s nothing better than prevention. But if you have symptoms of mild RSI, you can try short courses of anti-inflammatory painkillers (ibuprofen gel or tablets), hot and cold packs, elastic supports and splints. Some people are helped by yoga, massage and meditation. An expert opinion from an osteopath, physiotherapist, GP or occupational health doctor or nurse is important if symptoms persist and are severe. Referral to a joint specialist (rheumatologist) or pain clinic is a good idea in severe cases.

As referenced in The Guardian, Seven Ways... 19/02/2018

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