Preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries among Remote Workers

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many office employees have been forced to switch to remote work to curb the spread of the disease. While there are some who would gladly trade the daily commute for the chance to work in their pyjamas, the work-from-home setup is not without its drawbacks. These include miscommunication, cabin fever, loneliness, and even physical disorders.

However, even before the pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive already raised the alarm on work-related injuries: Some 480,000 UK workers suffer from work-related musculoskeletal injuries, such as Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Unfortunately, this number will continue to rise as remote working is implemented.

But what exactly is Repetitive Stress Injury, and how can this be prevented?

What is Repetitive Stress Injury(RSI)?

Medical News Today defines RSI as a general term for muscle damage accrued due to repeated physical activity. The hands, wrists, neck, and shoulders are some of the most commonly affected body parts, but other areas may also experience RSI depending on the nature of your work and routine.

What are the symptoms of RSI?

RSI may be difficult to diagnose definitively because the symptoms vary widely. Healthline identifies these as ranging from a mild tingling and tenderness to something more severe like chronic pain, numbness or loss of strength that can hinder your daily tasks. Swelling, stiffness and sensitivity to cold or heat are also usual indicators of RSI.

Who is at risk of developing RSI?

You can develop RSI even without going through regular rigorous physical activity. In fact, employees who work in front of their computers have an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. This is perhaps doubly true in a remote working arrangement, where the temptation to just hunch over your laptop in bed as you type away is too real. However, sustaining a poor working posture frequently and over a long period of time will only increase the risk of developing an RSI.

Is there a cure for RSI?

Short-term treatment of Repetitive Stress Injury usually involves addressing its symptoms. Your general physician might prescribe pain medication, or even have you go through a short course of steroid shots. Over the long term, however, adjustments to your workspace and job, on top of a physiotherapy plan, may be necessary to keep new problems and complications from cropping up in the future.

How do you prevent RSI?

Before things escalate to the point of needing medical treatment, it’s better to nip your bad habits in the bud. Below are a few tips you can do right in your own home to reduce the risk of having RSIs.

Correct your posture

Don’t slouch. Sit up straight. These instructions sound simple enough, but they are repeated time and again for good reason. Try using a soft pillow to help support your back, keep your feet on the ground instead of crossed, and keep your shoulders back instead of rounded. Being mindful of keeping a proper posture throughout the day can go a long way in avoiding RSI.

Rethink your working space

Skimping out on a comfortable workstation can eventually cause lingering physical problems that can affect your well-being and productivity. So, be sure to set up a workstation that promotes a conducive environment and provides opportunities for both efficiency and ergonomics.

Here at KTB Rehabilitation, we suggest getting a desk chair that fully supports your back and allows your shoulders and elbows to rest comfortably on the armrest. You can also consider investing in a standing desk converter, which PainFreeWorking explains can reduce strain in your body by minimising the pressure on your joints and promoting movement — all with a pull of a lever or a push of a button. This item can easily be positioned on top of any flat office furniture to elevate your work surface and allow you to stand while working. Most standing desk converters are ready-to-use, removing the hassle of assembling them upon receipt.

Take a break and exercise

Taking a few minutes out of your workday to step away from the computer and exercise can work wonders for your health. And if you balk at the mere mention of the word “exercise,” don’t worry! There are some relaxing stretches that will leave you feeling invigorated instead of gasping for air, like shoulder rolls, finger stretches and wrist rotations. All of which help ease the pressure and tension from areas in which RSIs are likely to develop.

Fortunately, before RSIs develop into chronic injuries, you can prevent it by incorporating precautionary measures in your daily routine. A little adjustment, when done consistently, can really go a long way in improving your wellbeing.

But if you think you need help in injury prevention and physical rehabilitation, feel free to connect with us here at KTB Rehabilitation for a virtual physiotherapy session, right in the comfort of your home.

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Content by: JBunten