Roughly 25% of the UK population work in an office and of that 25% two thirds will suffer from a repetitive strain injury at some point. As the name would suggest, these are injuries caused by repetitively performing the same action over a period of time, or repeatedly placing your body in an undesirable posture or stance. In the majority of cases, the injury is sustained by the regular compression of nerves, which can cause them to become pinched or trapped; alternatively it can be caused by placing unfamiliar strains on muscles which will lead to muscular fatigue or soreness.
Also known as Repetitive Strain Disorder, Repetitive Strain Injury is not a specific ailment, but rather a heading under which a whole host of different injuries appear. These injuries are not specific to one area of the body and can affect you anywhere, most commonly at a joint or pivot point like the ankle, elbow, knee, wrist and so on. The back is another area in which RSI regularly exacerbates aches and pains, as your back is made up of discs which hold the vertebra and nerves in place, meaning that every time you shift in your seat or assume an uncomfortable position, you run the risk of trapping nerves, which can cause an intense sharp pain. This can be aggravated further if you do not observe good seating posture, as the arch in your back can cause the discs and the vertebrae to grind together, and pinch the nerve more tightly.
One of the most common types of RSI in office workers is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which presents itself in the hand as well as the wrists and can consist of achingly dull or sharp shooting pains, in addition to tingling or numbness in the fingers. Studies have shown that it is likely to occur in those who regularly use computers, because when using a keyboard or mouse your forearms are generally pressed on the table’s surface or worse yet against its edge, and your wrists are flexed upward to type or move the mouse. This causes a great level of stress and discomfort on the Carpal Tunnel, a passage way in your wrist that houses numerous nerves, tendons, arteries and vessels, that as a result of being compressed and constricted cause you pain.
There are numerous ways to ward off the effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and most of them involve simple exercise and observing common health guidelines, such as not smoking. But there are ways you can further guarantee the health of your carpal tunnel, such as ensuring your forearm is not pressed against your table’s edge, and that you have an ergonomic accessory or two at your desk to take all the pressure off of your body. For more information on ergonomic accessories and to learn how to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other RSIs, read our article ‘How To Feel Better At Your Desk’.
There are many factors behind Carpal Tunnel’s frequency amongst RSIs, and none is more key than lifestyle. Just because you have left your office and your desk, does not mean that you cannot then go on to spend the rest of your day sat at your computer at home, playing games, reading articles, doing extra work, etc. Never giving your body the opportunity to rest can be just as bad as actively doing it harm and once you have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you will have to wait months for it to heal on its own, or you will have to undergo surgery. All of which can be avoided by regularly giving your body time to relax during the day.