How You Can Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury

People who use their hands for a living should be on the alert for pain, numbness and other unusual sensations. These symptoms may signal the onset of RSI. If they persist, see a doctor who specializes in such injuries. Meanwhile, here are some tips for preventing RSI or, if it’s too late for that, for keeping its symptoms in check:

— Take frequent rest breaks and rotate from one task to another.

— Maintain good posture without sitting too rigidly. Your body should be relaxed and your weight evenly distributed.

— When typing, keep hands relaxed and fingers gently curved. Your hands should float easily above the keyboard.

— Keep wrists in a neutral position — not twisted or strained — at the keyboard. The same applies to other activities such as holding a steering wheel, a tennis racket or a pencil.

— Keep hands warm to promote circulation. Good blood flow supplies nutrients to the tissues and helps wash away toxins.

— Exercise to improve circulation and overall conditioning.

— Open heavy doors with your shoulder, not your hands.

— Give your hands a break: invest in electric can openers and electric staplers, food processors, book stands and the like.

— Don’t wait for pain before taking a rest. Time your symptoms and break off work 10 minutes before they usually begin.

— Never work in pain.

— Avoid leaning on armrests or wrist pads. These should be used only when you’re not typing.

— Don’t lean on elbows; nerves there can become irritated.

— Try not to smoke, which reduces blood flow and makes you more vulnerable to RSI — another reason to quit.

— Don’t overdo domestic chores after a hard day at the office.

— If pain occurs, avoid leisure activities that can strain your hands, such as gardening, cooking, bowling or knitting. Hiking and jogging are preferable. Weight lifting, for RSI sufferers, is out of the question.

— Don’t wear wrist splints while typing. They can cause atrophy in some muscle groups.