As more and more work, education and recreation involves computers, everyone needs to be aware of the hazard of RSI to the hands and arms, often resulting from the use of keyboards. This can be a serious and very painful condition that is far easier to prevent than to cure once contracted, and can occur even in young physically fit people.

What is RSI? RSI is caused by mechanical irritation, which upsets the body's highly tuned natural balance. It is an inflammation of the tendon sheaths in the fingers and hands, wrists and elbows, which may eventually progress to the upper arms and shoulders. Repeated physical movements cause damage to tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissues.

Often stiffness in the spinal joints of the neck and upper back aggravate or even cause RSI in the arms and hands. Spinal problems cause irritation of the nerves as they exit the spine and this leads to problems in the muscles they supply.

What are the symptoms?

Tightness, discomfort, stiffness or pain in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms or elbows. Tingling, coldness or numbness in the hands. Clumsiness or loss of hand strength and coordination. Pain that wakes you up at night. Feeling a need to massage your hands, wrists and arms. Areas where Design May Cause Problems How do I prevent it? Self-help tips for computer users:

Don’t pound on the keyboard – use a light touch. Take lots of breaks to stretch and relax. This means both short breaks every few minutes and longer breaks every hour or so. Fidget a lot! Hold the mouse lightly! Learn and use keyboard commands if possible as no pointing device is risk free. Keep your arms and hands warm. Cold muscles and tendons are at much greater risk for overuse injuries. Eliminate unnecessary computer usage, No amount of ergonomic changes, fancy keyboards or exercise are going to help if you are simply typing more than your body can handle. Consider voice recognition software. This software that allows computer control or full voice dictation is becoming more powerful and less expensive. Evaluate other activities. Sports, carrying children, hobbies requiring intense small work (like knitting), and excess effort/tension in other daily activities may have enormous impact too. Pay attention to your body. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that it’s in trouble, but learning what is comfortable or awkward for your body before you are in pain may prevent injury. Kids are at risk too: increasing hours in front of the computer at home and school, using equipment that is not set up correctly for their size. What if I have symptoms of RSI? We all have occasional aches and pains that go away in a day or two, especially when we overdo anything. But if you have the symptoms listed above regularly when you are using the computer you should see a chiropractor as soon as possible. Dealing with this early is critical to limiting the damage. Remember that “RSI” is a mechanism of injury, not a diagnosis. Where or how seriously you are injured, and how best to treat it varies immensely from person to person.

Treatment RSI problems may be local or diffuse conditions. Local, such as: specific muscles, tendons, nerves being inflamed or injured. Diffuse, often mistaken for local problems, can involve muscle discomfort, pain, burning and/or tingling; although they’re not necessarily “ the problem”.

Prevention is still the best prescription. No wrist splint, armrest, split keyboard, spinal adjustment etc. is going to permit an immediate return to work at full speed if you’re injured. It is important to make the long-term changes in technique and work habits that initially caused the complaint. Healing could take months, sometimes years. Many RSI victims do regain the ability to work and substantial freedom from pain, but find that they remain vulnerable to re-injury and flare-ups.

Chiropractors adjust the affected joints to restore full motion, reducing stress on the nearby muscles, tendons and nerves.

Massage and specific exercises will often be prescribed. The spinal locking can be discovered before symptoms manifest and so chiropractors can prevent RSI in the first place.

This information was provided by The Chiropractic Information Service.

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