Preventing Computer Workstation Repetitive Strain Injuries

The human body is designed for motion. Sitting at a workstation in static positions performing repetitive motions is unhealthy. Sitting at a workstation in bad posture performing repetitive motions at a poorly fitted workstation is extremely unhealthy and leads to injury.

Repetitive Strain Injury is also known as repetitive stress injury, cumulative trauma disorder, repetitive motion disorder, occupational overuse syndrome and overuse syndrome.

Conditions known as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) include nerve impingement disorders, muscles strains, tendinopathies and ligament sprains.

Upper extremity nerve impingement conditions include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and radial nerve impingement.

Upper body muscle strain, tendinopathy and ligament sprain conditions associated with repetitive strain include injuries to the neck, upper back, shoulders, elbows, wrist, hand, fingers and thumb.

These painful and performance limiting musculoskeletal conditions develop slowly over time from repetitive motions performed in static positions. Their insidious onset is not due to a trauma but from repetition. Many business professionals execute keyboard and mouse work for long hours day after day with limited breaks and poor body positioning.

Ergonomics is defined by The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the scientific study of people at work. The CDC states the goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks.

Simply stated, I define ergonomics as the study of body positioning that maximizes efficiency and minimizes the potential for injury.

Numerous factors are involved in proper workstation ergonomics. General guidelines apply but individual factors must be considered. Everyone is built slightly different. For example, men of identical height can have different leg length, arm length, torso length, shoulder width, hip width, ribcage size, muscle size and spinal curvatures. These factors along with looking at prior injuries and pre-existing conditions are essential to determining what works for each individual.

Taking strategically timed breaks and micro-breaks help eliminate poor positioning and give you a reprise from fixed positions. Take five to ten minute breaks every hour and short micro-breaks every fifteen to twenty minutes. This may sound counter productive to accomplishing your work, but the opposite is true. Frequent short breaks allow the mind and body to refocus.

Drinking healthy drinks while working is the easiest way to accomplish breaks every hour. Humans need to drink water throughout to day to stay hydrated. Continually sipping water throughout the day forces, you to take numerous restroom breaks. Rising from your chair and walking breaks the static positioning, refocuses your eyes and brings blood flow to the musculoskeletal system.

Micro-breaks every fifteen to twenty minutes to correct your posture provides great benefit. Incorporating movement into these micro-breaks increases their benefit.

Dynamic motions, static stretches and nerve slides are simple valuable tools to prevent and manage repetitive strain injuries.

Dynamic motions like neck rolls, shoulder rolls, scapula retractions, elbow straightening, forearm turning, wrist bending, wrist rolls and finger splaying disrupt static positioning, lessen nerve pressure and re-establish blood flow.

Static stretches decrease muscle tension and increase flexibility. Static stretches should never be performed on a cold muscle therefore it is imperative to perform dynamic motions before static stretches.

Move slowly into a comfortable stretch while exhaling. Stretching is not a flexibility contest and should never hurt or elicit symptoms of any type. Hold a mild comfortable stretch for 20 to 60 seconds then slowly return to the starting position. Static stretches for the neck should only be held for 10 to 20 seconds.

Stretching during hourly breaks and lunch decreases muscles fatigue, increases productivity and lowers the risk of injury.

Nerve slides are non-exertion, non-resistance motion exercises that decrease pressure on nerves. Nerve slide exercises lessen nerve impingement caused by scar tissue by restoring correct motion between nerves and muscles.

Nerve slides move the limb from a position where the nerve is on it shortest path to a position where the nerve is on its longest path. Nerve slides are performed in a controlled manner through a pain-free range of motion for specific nerves or nerve bundles in the upper extremity.

Repetitive Strain Injuries can be prevented or managed with proper ergonomics, frequent breaks and motion exercises. Implement these strategies to lower your risk of acquiring a painful and performance-limiting repetitive strain injury.

Dr Donald A Ozello DC of Championship Chiropractic in Las Vegas, NV

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**Disclaimer: Always consult a medical professional before beginning an exercise program. Always work within your capabilities. Never perform an exercise that elicits or increases pain or symptoms. Reading this article and viewing the linked videos does not take the place of seeing a medical professional. Please visit a medical professional for evaluation, diagnosis & treatment.

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