What is Repetitive stress injury?
It is a potentially debilitating condition which results from overuse of hands for tasks such as typing, using a computer or a smart phone. This condition occurs because of repeated and excessive use of hands and fingers on either a computer or a smart phone. Such repetitive movements minute after minute day after day causes microscopic damage to the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. This leads to widespread problems covering the whole upper limb from the neck to the tip of the fingers.
What are the effects both physically and mentally?
The most important sign of RSI (Repetitive Stress Disorder) is pain in the upper limb. Pain can be localised to the fingers or the neck or generalised in the whole upper limb. The other major symptoms include weakness in the forearm or hands, lack of endurance, decrease in grip strength, tingling or numbness in the fingers and lack of co-ordination.
Apart from these physical symptoms many behavioral symptoms can be noticed with RSI. These include avoidance of the use of hand, using non dominant hand more, avoiding certain clothing, not playing sports that was once enjoyed, keep dropping things and feeling overly protective about ones hands.
Most important precaution to prevent RSI is maintaining right posture. The right posture while working on the computer is keeping the feet flat on the ground, knees directly over the feet at 90 degrees two inches below the desk, lowere back arched in supported by the chair, upper back naturally rounded, shoulder and arms relaxed and by the side and head must balanced gently.
Also regular stretching and strengthening excercises must be done maintain the health of the muscles. These excercises must be done atleast once daily or during office breaks.
Taking rest and regular breaks is important to avoid excacerbating the symptoms. Massaging gently the upper limb may help. Use of hot or cold packs is useful for many of the patients. Alternating between hot and cold packs is a good strategy. If symptoms get very severe taking a warm bath may help.
If the symptoms are very severe or there are some specific issues it is better to contact your orthopaedic/hand surgeon at the earliest.
If there are very specific symptoms like Carpal tunnel syndrome use of splints or local steroid injections may help. If the symptoms are very severe a minor surgery may help the patient get better.
If a specific condition like De Querrvains (Tendon inflation) is diagnosed, again use of splints or steroid injections maybe helpful. Again if the condition is very severe a small surgery release the tight sheet is helpful. Other conditions that can be associated with RSI include Trigger finger, Trigger thumb, ligament injuries, Complex regional pain syndrome, tendinitis and tennis elbow.
Overall it is better to avoid RSI by taking appropriate precautions rather than managing the myriad symptoms associated with the condition.