Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI): What You Need To Know

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Most people live, work, and play in an environment that puts a lot of strain on the body. Even a job that's not necessarily physically demanding can lead to a lot of stress. Repetitive Strain Injuries, or RSI, are some of the most common injuries in today's modern workforce. Here's what you need to know.  

What Risk Factors Increase the Likelihood of a RSI? 

The three main risk factors of an RIS are technique, posture and overuse. Typically an RSI is caused by repetitive actions that workers are otherwise not trained to avoid, such as the correct posture to sit in a chair for long hours. If you work at a job, such as sorting mail, your RSI could come from overuse of the muscle groups that you use to do your job all day long.

Computer based input projects that require heavy endurance and long hours without much time for rest are a risk factor for developing long term injuries due to the amount of time you spend in the same position, doing the same motions. This is also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder, or CTD.      

How Can I Prevent An RSI?   

Since most repetitive strain injuries can simply start just by the way you sit in your chair, start working on your posture. Your feet should always remain flat on the floor instead of at an angle. Your shoulders need to be relaxed at your sides, with your knees bent directly over your feet. 

A great office chair helps with a lot of posturing techniques, you can use one to adjust the height and angle of the seat to make sure your lower back is properly arched in, while your upper back stays naturally rounded. 

Your head should also not be jittering or moving. At your computer desk, position your keyboard right above your thighs so that you can reach all necessary keys comfortably with your elbows still at your sides and bending naturally. Pull out your mouse and place it to the most comfortable side of the keyboard, far enough in towards you so that you won't ever have to stretch or hunch over for it. 

Your monitor needs to be centered directly in front of you and at an eye level, meaning the top 2-3 inches of the computer screen should be above your eye line so you can take in the whole monitor without an uncomfortable head position.  

What are the Signs That an RSI is Developing  

Are you not able to work as long as you used to on a project without tiring? Do your arms, fingers and hands feel weak, almost heavy like you are straining just to pick them up and place them on the keyboard? You might also notice tingling sensations, or worse, loss of sensation in the wrists and arms. 

Mental acuity and dexterity also suffers from RSI; you will notice things you normally do with muscle memory are now seemingly more complicated, and you have to put more thought into each move. Loss of proper coordination and balance, hypersensitivity, and struggling with strength is also common with RSI.   

Can I Get Workman's Comp for an RSI?    

The short answer is yes, if you qualify by meeting certain criteria, you can get workman's compensation for any RSI received at work. If you are a two-job worker, your employer may require a strong pool of evidence that proves your RSI was caused on site and not at your secondary job or on personal time. 

You also need to report the injury and make a claim as soon as your symptoms start. Typical workman's comp insurers WILL NOT allow a claim if an employee fails to immediately report an injury to a supervisor. 

You will also need to file your claim quickly after you have reported your injury. You will need to schedule your own appointment with a company physician; if one is not provided, see your own. Keep records of all medical and hospital documents, and make sure to inform doctors that you are there for a work related injury. Follow through after the fact and make sure your employer has finished filing the paperwork. 

If you are clearly qualified for workman's comp due to an RSI and have taken all of the proper steps to receive  it, but your employers still won't grant you workman's compensation or try to give you less than you deserve, you will need to contact an attorney who works with workman's compensation claims. He will be able to put legal pressure on, as well as help you navigate the difficulties of receiving these benefits. You can visit to find an attorney to represent you. An RSI can sound scary and stressful, but it is manageable using the right techniques to ensure it causes as little damage as possible or is prevented entirely.