1 DON'T IGNORE IT
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) causes pain, weakness, tingling and stiffness of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or other soft tissues and joints in the upper limbs from the neck to the fingers.
It is also called upper limb disorder, cumulative trauma disorder or occupational overuse syndrome.
It often starts gradually and is worse when you're at work, but it can take on a life of its own and become constant and debilitating.
Nip it in the bud by taking short, frequent breaks from repetitive tasks such as typing. Check the ergonomics of your workstation and try not to slouch at your desk.
2 USE BOTH HANDS
Proper typing is key to preventing RSI. Contorting the fingers of one hand to reach more than one key at once, especially if you're typing one-handed while holding your phone against the other ear, is a recipe for muscle strain. It's like playing the piano; correct fingering is essential. Basic typing skills aren't often taught in schools; they should be.
3 GET UP AND MOVE
Try to get up from your desk every 30 minutes and move your neck and shoulders to release tension.
A 10-minute break every hour (a stroll to the loo or to make a drink) is advised. One good tip is to time how long you can type before getting symptoms (pins and needles or muscle ache) and then set an alarm to stop typing 10 minutes before that time.
4 DO THE PRAYER STRETCH
Stretching can help prevent and manage RSI. The prayer stretch involves putting the palms of your hands together, pointing up; then push to one side and then the other for 15 to 30 seconds at a time. If stretches make RSI worse, see a physiotherapist for expert advice.
5 IT'S IN THE WRIST ACTION
To prevent RSI, keep wrists straight and flat when typing. Sit with thighs level, feet flat on floor (or on a footrest), sit up straight, shoulders relaxed, upper arms at the sides (not splayed out), forearms horizontal or tilted slightly downwards, so knees and elbows are at a right angle. Keep the top of your screen at eye level and adjust the position of your keyboard, so it's easy to reach without stretching or hunching.
6 ASSESS YOUR RISK
Your employer should carry out a risk assessment when you join to check that your work area suits you. You can request an assessment if you haven't had one or if you're developing symptoms of RSI.
7 TREAT YOURSELF
There's nothing better than prevention. But if you have symptoms of mild RSI, you can try short courses of anti-inflammatory painkillers (ibuprofen gel or tablets), hot and cold packs, elastic supports and splints. Some people find yoga, massage or meditation helpful. An expert opinion is important if symptoms persist and are serious, and a referral to a joint specialist (rheumatologist) or pain clinic is a good idea in severe cases.