When you hear the term “workplace injury”, what probably comes to mind is a job that involves some obvious safety hazards like working with heavy equipment. It’s easy to forget that simply using a computer can put you at a real risk of injury.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome are common among workers who use computers. These injuries typically involve pain in your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, or neck.
They’re the result of repetitive motions and overuse that gradually damage your muscles, nerves, and tendons. Once you get an RSI, it can be very painful to perform even simple actions like clicking a mouse.
One way to prevent an RSI is to avoid repetitive tasks. But when you have to use a computer to perform your job, avoiding those tasks is not an option. So here are some ways you can reduce your risk of injury:
Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks is one of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your risk of suffering an injury from repetitive strain. Frequent short breaks are better than one long one, so you may be able to split up your existing breaks into smaller chunks. That means you won’t have to reduce your workflow.
If possible, you should stand up and walk around during your breaks. Remember that the important part is taking a break from using your computer, so there’s nothing stopping you from performing other tasks. For example, getting up to go to the printer or photocopier can count as a break.
Improve Your Posture
Remember the advice your parents gave you about not slouching? They were right. Having proper posture will reduce your risk and make you more comfortable as you work.
Besides avoiding slouching, you should avoid bending the wrists. So adjust your chair so you can use your keyboard while keeping your arms and wrists straight and level with the floor.
To avoid straining your neck, ensure your computer screen is straight in front of you and the top of the screen is at eye-level. Your keyboard should also be directly in front of you with enough space at the front (about six inches) to rest your wrists when you’re not typing.
Another tip is to keep your mouse as close to you as possible. This will help you avoid leaning forward and reaching as you work.
Use Ergonomic Equipment
There is a range of ergonomically-designed equipment that can reduce your risk when using a computer. That includes keyboard and mouse wrist mats that help you keep your wrists straight. Headsets can also be a big help if you need to talk on the phone while typing, as they eliminate the need to squeeze a phone between your head and shoulder.
There is also software to help you work more comfortably. For example, speech-to-text software can help by minimizing the need to type. And there’s free software that allows you to use your mouse without clicking. It works by automatically clicking for you when you hover the cursor for a set amount of time.
Get Help From a Physiotherapist
Physiotherapists are experts at preventing these types of injuries. They can use manual therapy, exercise programs, and other treatments that will improve your flexibility, endurance, and resilience to RSI.
With their understanding of biomechanics, physiotherapists can also analyze your posture and the way you perform repetitive tasks to make recommendations on how to improve. And if you are suffering from an RSI, physiotherapy is one of the best ways to relieve pain, restore your range of motion, and speed up the healing process.