Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) occurs when you repeat a task so often that it actually harms your body, usually resulting in soreness, stiffness, and musculoskeletal injuries. The issue was first highlighted in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the use of computers became more widespread in offices all over the world, thanks in part to the revolutionary program ‘Windows’.
The debilitating effects of RSI were so widespread that an entire industry was born in order to provide support for workers and reduce the risk of being sued by corporations who didn’t provide adequate protection for their employees.
Ergonomic equipment such as fully adjustable chairs, modular desks, and computer peripherals like a good ergonomic mouse or keyboard began to be developed in relation to how a person interacts with their environment and how this can be made more comfortable in order to reduce or prevent RSI.
The ergonomics industry has been an immense help over the past 30 years in helping to limit the effects of RSI with posture-correcting chairs and accessories, height-adjustable monitor stands, and footrests, but none of these are relevant unless you are actually sitting and/or working at a desk with a computer, which most young people today simply do not do.
Through 2020 and into 2021, studies have revealed that 83% of social media usage is now accessed via a smartphone rather than a traditional PC, which has led to an RSI condition that scientists have dubbed ‘WhatsAppitis’; pain in the wrist and thumbs from excessively checking social media, which some teens have admitted doing over 100 times per day.
Of course, many people still use a PC on a regular basis since they are still a vital piece of equipment for many everyday jobs, especially office-based work such as word processing, spreadsheet calculations, and presentations. While great strides have been made in combating RSI with specifically designed office furniture and peripherals, working from home has caused an increase in injuries.
Covid-19 measures over the past 15 months have meant that millions of people have been restricted from going to the office and have had to work from home instead. Since a company is liable for any injury while at work, they are required to supply ergonomic furniture, the likes of which many don’t have at home and given that some staff have chosen comfort over practicality by working on the couch, for example, RSI complaints have risen.
The core concepts of ergonomics are still relevant today and can be applied to phone use as well as PCs and even if you feel fine today, you could be doing damage to your tendons and muscles that get worse over time. One of the biggest contributing factors to RSI is simply not sitting or standing correctly when using a piece of equipment and this includes PCs, phones, and machinery.
When using a phone, looking down at the screen causes undue stress (from 10lbs to 60lbs) to your neck so you should try to look at the screen at 0 degrees. In addition, take breaks from texting or swiping and try not to grip your phone tightly. When using a PC, always ensure that you use an adjustable chair so that your feet are flat on the floor at a 90-degree knee bend and your eyes are level with the display.
Ergonomic keyboards and mice can also reduce RSI in your hands, wrists, and elbows.
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