Tips for Preventing RSI: Repetitive Strain Injuries

Tips for Preventing RSI at Your Desk | Walnut Creek MassageRepetitive strain injury (RSI) (also known as repetitive stress injury), is often caused by repetitive motions at work, especially for people who work at a desk and use a computer all day.

Here are tips to relieving repetitive strain at your desk:

1. Decrease Repetitive Tasks

Can you rotate your day’s activities or even rotate roles with your co-workers? Switching to different tasks allow you to use different muscles and decrease the strain to the same set of muscles you usually use every day.

2. Decrease Computer time

Can you cut back time at your computer? Can you use a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking and dictate your documents without having to type? Can you decrease your recreational computer usage so your body can rest during your off-hours?

3. Improve Your Desk Ergonomics

A better workplace design can prevent poor posture, overreaching for our mouse or keyboard or viewing your monitor at awkward angles.

4. Stretch!

Every time you complete a task, take two minutes to stretch your wrists, forearms and your neck. Circle your shoulders foward, up toward your ears and back.

5. Mini-Breaks

Every hour take a five to ten-minute break. Walk to the other side of your office and get a glass of water. Or take a quick break outside and walk around your building. When you get back you’ll feel refreshed and focused for the next hour.

6. Breathe!

Remember to take deep breaths throughout the day. Imagine breathing into your arms, neck and shoulders. Be mindful of where you hold tension and imagine your muscles letting go with each exhale.

These steps can help you feel flexible and relaxed, even as you work, and help prevent repetitive stress injuries.

Tips for Relieving Joint & Muscle Pain & Stiffness at Your Desk

Prevent Muscle Pain & Strain at Your Desk1. Consider eliminating some of the repetitiveness of your work.

Can you rotate jobs with your fellow workers? Combined with better workplace design, this can allow you to engage different muscle groups than just your typing muscles.

Cut back your computer time if possible. This may mean reducing your recreational computer usage.

2. Don’t overlook stretching.

Take breaks to move and stretch every hour or so. Stretch your forearms by bending your wrists forward and
backward and by circling your wrists.

Stretch your neck forward and from side to side. Circle your shoulders forward, up toward your ears and back.

3. Take mini-breaks several times an hour.

Stop, let your arms hang to your side and take several full breaths.

4. Keep your arms and hands warm.

Cold muscles and tendons are more at risk for overuse injuries.

5. And, finally, imagine breathing into your arms, neck and shoulders as you work.

Rigidity is not the goal. Instead, focus on staying flexible and relaxed, even as you work.

Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User’s Guide. Pascarelli, Emil
M.D., John Wiley and Sons, 1994.

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Tips to Save Your Wrists

If you are having trouble with pain or discomfort in your wrist area, consult a physician or ask a massage therapist help you assess if muscle tension is contributing to the pain.

If you work at a desk, you may want to look at your work set-up and use these suggestions to reduce pain and avoid more serious injury. If your company has an ergonomics department, ask them to help you change your work station and body posture to work more safely.

1. Your keyboard height should ensure that your wrists are  straight and level, never bent back. If you can’t adjust your table height to accommodate this, you may want to move the keyboard into your lap.

2. When typing or using a mouse, your wrists should not rest on anything, and should not be bent up, down, or to the sides. Keep your hands relaxed hovering slightly over the keyboard and the middle knuckle aligned with the center of the wrist.

3. Move your hands using your whole arms instead of resting your wrists on something, and stretching your fingers to hit the keys. Move your hand to hit function keys instead of stretching to reach them. This may take some getting used to, but can help a great deal in preventing pain and injury.


When you stop typing for awhile, rest your hands in your lap or let your arms hang to your sides. Take a moment to shake them out and  enjoy the refreshed energy moving through them.

It may make a big difference if you take breaks to stretch. Bend your wrists forward and backward and circle them in both directions. Make tight fists and relax them 10-20 times. Ask your massage therapist for stretches specifically for the forearms. Set up a reminder chime on your computer or some other reminder to take frequent stretching breaks.

Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User’s Guide. Pascarelli, Emil
M.D., John Wiley and Sons, 1994.

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