Steps for Preventing and Treating RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

Steps for Preventing and Treating RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

1. Exercise
Performing selected stretching and strengthening exercises can help condition and develop the muscles of your body and, in the process, enable your body to be better prepared to cope with any undue stress placed on it. For example, doing exercises for your forearms and wrists can help reduce the likelihood that your hands will sustain a repetitive strain injury (RSI).

2. Get enough sleep
If you don't get enough sleep or sleep well, your body may not have an adequate opportunity to recuperate from the exertional demands to which you subject it. Keep in mind that tired muscles are more prone to injury.

3. Maintain good posture
Adhere to guidelines for proper posture. Keep in mind that posture is dynamic - rather than a static - practice. Good posture involves keeping your bones properly aligned while moving or at rest, with your muscles at their optimum length instead of being too tight or overstretched.

4. Position yourself properly at your workstation
Set up your workstation to accommodate your body. Proper positioning involves correctly configuring your chair and desk and ensuring that your body is correctly angled to the computer monitor and keyboard.

5. Listen to your body
No one knows how you feel as well as you do - not your physician, not your employer, not your significant other. If you instinctively feel that something may be harmful to any part of your body, pay attention to that instinct. Subsequently, see if you can determine what activities are causing your pain, and then avoid further aggravating your injury.

6. Pace yourself
Take breaks. Although experts vary in their recommendations concerning the length and frequency of such breaks, you should take at least a 5- to 10-minute break from your work station every 30 minutes or so to rest and relax your muscles and eyes.

7. Use your head
There is no substitute for common sense. If any aspect of the advice you are receiving concerning your RSI bothers you, ask questions and keep an open mind. Don't assume you're wrong and the person giving the advice is always right. Keep in mind that no one has all the answers about RSI.

8. Manage your pain
Adopt a sensible approach to pain management. As a rule, you should take the primary responsibility for managing your own pain. For example, applying ice to sore or painful areas can reduce inflammation and pain. Furthermore, performing stretching and low-intensity resistance exercises (as tolerated) can help keep your muscles supple, toned, and pain free.

9. Be patient
Keep in mind that the stresses on your body didn't collectively cause your RSI in a 24-hour period, and you shouldn't expect an overnight cure. Your body is slow to forgive and heal. Accordingly, because your recovery may take months or even years, patience should be the foundation of your efforts to deal with your RSI.

10. See your physician
An accurate diagnosis of RSI is important. For example, your RSI could be caused by another factor or serious medical condition (e.g., pregnancy, lyme disease, arthritis, diabetes). So if your RSI seems unduly prolonged or painful, you should see your physician as soon as possible.

James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.

Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.