Monday, July 01, 2024

Dealing With RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) as a Writer

It's not just factory workers and musicians that suffer from RSI, it's pretty common among the writing community as well.

Simply sitting at a desk for an hour or so every night, using a mouse and typing, strain will start to emerge.  RSI pain comes in different forms including cramp, weakness, aching pain, stiffness and throbbing.  

It Comes With the Job

In today's world most people are more sedentary, which is bad enough, but couple that with a job that involves sitting at a desk most of the time.  It's a recipe for disaster!

The older I've become, the more I'm aware that my body no longer bounces back like it used to.  And that has led to a period of trigger finger, on not just one finger but several.   Fortunately my day isn't just spent in a chair, I also make sure I do some walking and other exercises to keep my ageing body in shape.

I digress.

What You Need to Know About RSI

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an umbrella term, used to refer to various musculo-skeletal injuries. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most common medical diagnosis for those suffering from RSI.

Tendonitis commonly results from overuse and consequent inflammation of the tendon in the wrist, forearms, elbow or shoulder.

Tenosynovitis or Trigger Finger is the swelling of the tendon sheath in the finger or thumb, causing pain when these tendons move and often an audible creaking. This might be part of a rheumatic disease but a bacterial infection is another possible cause.

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, a small sac of fibrous tissue lined with synovial membrane, filled with fluid, and used to reduce friction. They form at joints and where tendons pass over bones. This can happen in response to unusual pressure or friction. The inflammation causes joint pain and stiffness.

Epicondylitis is caused by inflammation of the tendons, often the result of tiny ruptures to the muscle around the funny bone, which attaches the forearm muscles to the elbow on the inside of the elbow.

What Causes Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

Many things have been blamed including: Physiological causes such as vitamin deficiencies, wrist shape, neck and spine bone shape, plus overall physical and mental health have all been implicated.
Women appear to be at a higher risk, possibly because of the nature of traditional female work but studies have shown an increase in symptoms while taking oral contraceptives, during pregnancy and after the menopause.
Poor posture, bad work habits, long hours, stressful work, physical stress, heavy workloads and an improper exercise regime coupled with lack of regular breaks are all known to cause RSI.

Extract taken from writerservices.

How Can I Improve My Writing Situation?

As I mentioned in my previous blog post Why You Don't Have to be a Desk Bound Writer, there are things you can do to alleviate your situation, that will help you start some new lifelong habits so that you'll never have RSI.

Create an Ergonomic Work Space

  • If you haven't already, make sure your desk  height, chair, keyboard, screen, and mouse are all at the right height.  
  • Don't allow your body to slouch, instead sit with your back straight and eyes straight ahead.  
  • Take regular breaks, and go outside if you can, for a walk.
  • Use a light touch approach to your typing to minimise stress to your fingers.

Exercises to Relieve Your RSI

Whole Body Stretch:

  • Stand with feet slightly apart.
  • Lift your arms above your head while you're looking up.
  • Stretch your arms for as long as you can.
  • Drop arms back down, repeat 5 times.

Neck and Shoulder Stretch:

  • Sitting down, look straight ahead.
  • Lift your left arm up and place the palm against the back of your head.
  • Gently pull your head towards your shoulder without lifting your shoulder up.
  • Switch sides and repeat 5 times.

Wrist Stretch:

  • Stand with hands by your sides.
  • Bring your hand up and place your palm against the back of the opposite arm.
  • Do this to gently stretch the wrist and forearm.
  • Repeat 5 times.

Remember you don't have to live with RSI, there are always things you can do to make your situation better and give you a longer, healthier writing life.

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Read more:

Why You Don't Have to be a Desk Bound Writer

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