4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of a Repetitive Strain Injury at Work

Repetitive strain injuries can happen to anyone who repeats the same movements over and over again. Office workers, especially those with heavy daily computer usage, are at particular risk, especially when working at non-ergonomic workstations, using poor posture, and not taking adequate breaks. Here are 4 ways to reduce your risk of a repetitive strain injury at work.

Posture

Sit up with your feet flat on the floor and your knees positioned directly over your feet. Tilt your pelvis slightly forward. Arch your lower back slightly, supporting a neutral position with your chair or a rolled-up towel. Let your shoulders, arms, and neck relax, and keep your head gently balanced at the top of your spine.

What is good posture? For our purposes here, good posture is when you are seated in such a way that the effort required to work at your computer is minimized. The following checklist identifies the proper way to sit in order to achieve good posture:

Chair

Your chair is a dominant factor in controlling your work posture, so it is key to choose one that is highly adjustable. Choose a firm but not hard seat, ensure that the seat is long enough to comfortably support your thighs, and select a chair that is tall enough to adequately support your spine. Avoid “bucket” seats, which can roll your pelvis into an unnatural position. Spend as much time in the chair as possible before purchasing it to ensure that your body feels relaxed and supported, with no odd pressure points.

Workstation

Besides your chair, pay close attention to the positioning of your keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

Keyboard: The keyboard should rest on your desk or table above your thighs, allowing you to keep your forearms roughly parallel to the ground.

Mouse: Rest your mouse beside the keyboard in a spot that does not require you to reach or lean to use it.

Monitor: Place the monitor directly in front of you, approximately 15 to 25 inches away, at a height that places your eye level somewhere in the top 20% of the screen.

If you use a laptop, consider attaching an external keyboard and/or monitor. It is nearly impossible to ergonomically set up a laptop station without these peripherals.

Keep your wrists straight when typing and let your hands float. Avoid straining to reach hard-to-reach keys, instead moving your whole hand. Type lightly rather than pounding the keys.

Exercise

Take a break at least once per hour to walk around and do some simple stretching and strengthening exercises. Stretch against a wall or doorway to open up your arms, shoulders, wrists, hands, and pecs. Gently rotate your head up and down and side to side. Roll your shoulders up and back. Take several deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, and reduce eye strain by gazing at something out in the distance. Be sure to hydrate during every break.

If you have any concerns about your workstation or feel that your job may be leading to a repetitive strain injury, talk to your employer. Federal and state laws require companies to take active steps to minimize the risk of these injuries.

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