How to prevent repetitive strain injury

Human beings were never built to do repeated mechanical tasks, and hence people get repetitive strain injury when they do too much repeated mechanical actions with their hands or arms.

It used to be that repetitive strain injury just occured in the work-place, but thanks to the advent of computer gaming, it is occuring in the home and amongst children.

Tips to prevent RSI

1. Buy a computer desk - these usually have a slide-out tray below the desk where you place the keyboard (feed the wires to the back of the tray to attach to your computer below your desk), and this tray is positioned so that your arm is straight from hand to elbow. The benefit of these desks is that the keyboard tray is designed so that your arm is perfectly horizontal when you type the keyboard. All my aches and pains disappeared when I got mine. Any posture where your arm is at an angle will create strain on the joints (either the elbow or wrist)..

2. Make sure you adjust your seat so that your arm is horizontal and your eyes level with the screen. If your screen is angled badly, you will get neck and shoulder strain. Ergonomic chairs really help support your back and arms and help you move easily and comfortably at your desk.

3. Don't use force when typing - modern keyboards are designed to be soft and react to the slightest touch. Most people don't have a problem typing gently - until they start playing games on their computer. For some unknown reason, people seem to think if they bash the arrow keys or their mouse very hard they will do better in the game - but of course it has no bearing as keyboards and mouses are sensitive. If you find yourself repeatedly bashing your mouse or keys, change the type of game you play - the strategy games require more brain work and less speed with your hands and are both more satisfying and cause less strain on your body.

It's also possible to change the type of mouse you use to one of the ergonomic ones, which have the roller-ball on the top instead of under the mouse. This way you don't have to move the mouse to move the cursor, the mouse stays stationary and you use the fingers to gently move balls on the side of the mouse to move the cursor.

4. Take breaks away from the computer - getting up to go make coffee every couple of hours is a good idea as you get to stretch your body. If you've been spending long hours at the computer, it might be an idea to take an entire day off where you don't go near the machine at all. Yes, it can be a shock to the system disconnecting from the net like that, but a break will refresh the mind as well as the body.

5. Exercise. Is there a word for the type of person who spends 14 hours a day in front of their computer either working or gaming or surfing the net? There should be. We're sort of the geek equivalent of a couch potato - geek potato? computer potato? Anyway, it really helps our poor bodies to make time to actually do some exercise every day - just gentle walking or yoga or even the equivalent of the exercise our parents did in the 1950's when they started each morning with a few deep-knee bends and toe-touchers. Anything that will stretch your body and muscles will help.

6. If you have started to get aches and pains, stop doing whatever it is that is causing them immediately. Most aches will disappear with rest, massage and a hot bath. If they are persistent though, you may have developed a serious problem. In particular if you've developed numbness, tingling or burning you need to see your doctor straight away, and make a serious attempt to change your lifestyle so that you avoid any actions and movement that put strain on your body.

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