Avoiding Repetetive Stress Injury

by Steven J. Owens (unless otherwise attributed)

First thing is, don't hesitate, get professional help now. RSI can quickly and easily become permanent damage - permanent as in, "you're in pain for the rest of your life and costly and risky surgery might help but might just leave you crippled" permanent.

I'm not trying to panic you and I'm not saying this has already happened to you, but if you read up on RSI you see all sorts of anecdotes about people who "thought it was just temporary and it would get better if they ignored it" so they put off talking to a doctor.

Also, if your employer is a major corporation, they'll be sensitive as hell to the potential for RSI-related lawsuits. Your immediate superior may not be aware of these issues. Don't treat it as a work area issue that your superior has to resolve, treat it as a health benefits issue that your company has to resolve. Your boss has plenty to do and will not make your RSI issues a high priority. If I were in your shoes I'd suggest you:

  • see your doctor,
  • insist that he/she give you a referral to an ergonomics specialist
  • (insist - many doctors are unfamiliar with the topic; many doctors
  • seem reluctant to admit that they're not familiar with any topic).
  • see if you can get a physician to give you an actual prescription
  • for ergonomic corrective measures.
  • take this to your employer
  • if your immediate superior doesn't have a direct response (i.e. if
  • they say "I'll look into it", that's not good enough), wait two days
  • and then take it to whoever's in charge of health benefits, (sometimes
  • Personnel in smaller corporations, sometimes a separate department in
  • larger corporations). They're usually a lot more up on the topic, a
  • lot more aware of the lawsuit risks, and a lot more responsive.

    Some general rules of thumb I'd follow in setting up your work area (but don't stop with this, there's a ton of stuff on RSI on the net, go to Google, put in "RSI" and do the reading, then if you think there's a problem, talk to a doctor who knows about RSI. I am not a doctor, and I don't want to be sued!):

  • Essentially, if you're sitting normally, no joint should be especially
  • tensed for any length of time. A major danger sign is if you have to
  • consistently keep any part of your body tensed to use your computer
  • (or whatever you're working on), particularly in the small bones &
  • muscles, like your hands.
  • Your chair should be high enough that your feet are flat on the floor,
  • but the chair seat is not cutting into your thighs at all.
  • Your keyboard should be at a level so that your upper arms hang
  • naturally and are more-or-less straight up and down. From the inside
  • of your elbow to the tips of your fingers should be a straight line,
  • slanting slightly down. Your wrists, the backs of your hands, your
  • fingers should be flat and relaxed. Remember the major danger sign I
  • mentioned - if you have to keep the backs of your hand tensed to pull
  • your fingers up to the right angle to type, then you either need to
  • raise your chair or lower your keyboard.
  • The monitor should be placed so it's about eighteen inches away and
  • slightly down (about 15-20 degrees down). If you sit levelly, close
  • your eyes, relax, then open them without actively looking anywhere,
  • where your gaze falls is where the center of your monitor should be.
    See original (unformatted) article


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