Career RSI

Lunch breaks are not for wimps!

I found this article on the BBC News Magazine web page which got me all fired up just by it’s title “Are lunch breaks really for wimps?“. The article points to research which paints a truly scary picture of current work practices. The following are some quotes –

“Only one in six workers takes a regular lunch break.”

“One consequence of the credit crunch is that breaks are getting even shorter as job insecurity increases.”

“Employees are struggling to keep on top of to-do lists and think the answer is to work harder, eating a sandwich at their desk as opposed to taking a full lunch break, and also not having sufficient breaks during the rest of the day.”

“The vast majority of people are having lunch at their desk while working. That’s the average person now. Very rarely do they get out of the office.”

“If senior management create a culture that lunch is for wimps, it’s counter productive. We all need breaks.”

The research quoted in this article, if valid, foretells a very bleak scenario for

Ergonomics RSI

My own RSI pain experience

My own experience with RSI pain is that it sets in fairly quickly (over a period of 6 months to 1 year) from the start with mild tingling over the right and left hands/forefingers to more full-blown pain. I had been working extensively doing Computer Aided Design work and producing large quantities of documentation. In the image below, the red areas indicate the main areas where I experienced most of my RSI pain.

rsi arm pain

The areas of pain included –

  • Acute pain over right index and middle fingers
  • Pain over backs of hands
  • Acute pain right wrist
  • Acute pain over outer edge of right thumb
  • Right upper forearm extensor pain
  • Finger joint pain when typing
  • Similar story with left arm (less intense, but I am right handed)

Each separate area of pain could be attributable to a certain cause, and sometimes one symptom would

Career RSI

Pressures of office work environment and RSI

In the office work environment, there are many interacting forces, politics and pressures, both perceived and real that can create the right conditions for RSI.

As human beings we have to deal with the mental insecurity of spending time thinking of how others perceive us. This can become magnified significantly in the work environment where the perception of your manager can be an overwhelming factor in whether you get a good pay rise or not.
The office culture of being pressured into sitting at your desk all day is pervasive. If you are not at your desk you may be perceived as being less productive. Trying to factor in time for the resting of injuries, walking around or

Career Miscellaneous RSI

A typical RSI sufferer’s day

clockSome readers may not know what it’s like to suffer from a computer related RSI (repetitive strain injury). The following provides a small glimpse into my previous life on a typical day at the office in a full time well paid job with a continual workload.

My typical RSI day

7.00am wake up. RSI pain feels best right now having had a good sleep. May feel even better if I have remembered to wear my wrist brace over night. If I haven’t, then I may have tingling/pain and numbness in the hands and wrists before the day starts – not good! (stress level 0/10, pain level 1/10)

8.30am put wrist brace on to drive in traffic to job. Between busy driving conditions and thoughts of workload ahead, I’m starting to feel less relaxed.  Arrive at work, on time, but a bit stressed after all that traffic! (stress level 2/10, pain level 2/10)

10.00am spent 1hr catching up on overnight emails, creating actions from them and replying to others (stress level 4/10, pain level 5/10)

11.00am spent most of mid morning working on latest priority work (maybe if I get this out of the way now, I’ll get to my real work this afternoon). Pretty absorbed in work, trying to

Career Miscellaneous RSI

RSI and Job Performance

Performance v Endurance

If you are anything like I was, you are a good conscientious performer in your job. You may have been working extra hours to make sure you did a good job, you may also have worked evenings, weekends and even holidays. This is more often than not done to meet or exceed your goals, improve your chances of promotion and attain the related pay increases. It’s quite often the people who work hardest who are the most stressed in life, because they care about the quality of their work. They may often be the ones carrying the biggest workload, mainly because they are performing the best. This high pressure work may all be being conducted on a computer and therefore exposing the worker to some of the greatest risk factors for an onset of an RSI.

It would be interesting to do a poll of RSI sufferers in the industry and see how many correlated to previously ‘good’ performing employees, although reliable data may be very hard to obtain.

It’s an old cliche, but in your job you have to try to strike a good balance between

Miscellaneous RSI

Text Messaging RSI Timebomb

mobile phone texting rsiJust came across an old article on mobile phone texting and RSI from 2006. In the article it states that almost 4 million people in the UK are suffering from Repetitive Strain Injuries relating to using their mobile phones for texting.

The UK has a high rate of mobile phone use for texting (we are a nation of texting addicts!), and it is highly prevalent in the under 20 age group. Texting of course is the act of creating a text message on a small mobile device, with either a standard numeric phone pad with alphabetical letters encoded in the pad or a full mini sized keypad with a key for each letter/character. Irrespective of the key count that these small devices have, they all have something in common and that is very small repetitive motion of the fingers and mainly thumbs, in a very confined location.

I first encountered such a device in 2001 when I had my first text messaging pager with tiny full keypad. As an RSI sufferer back then, I was interested to see how it felt to use. Of course being a thumb typing device, it was easier for me to

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

RSI, Mind over Matter?

mind over matterDuring the course of my injury, I have frequently encountered opinions and references to RSI injuries being “all in the mind” (a reference to the sufferer somehow psychologically inducing RSI pain rather than there being an actual physical cause).

Addressing this idea seems to have worked for some people. Other people see the condition as solely a physical disability and treat it as such. I however prefer to believe that it is more than likely a merging of the two in a pain cycle that contributes to the worsening of such injuries.

The following is a list some of the physical and psychological factors with RSI injuries –

Miscellaneous RSI Tips

Forearm Extensor Muscle Overuse and RSI

(Article updated 22 April 2011)

RSI symptoms are very often the result of extremely tight (overused) forearm extensor muscles. These muscles are located in the upper forearm region. They are used to raise the wrist and fingers, which is the primary motion involved in unergonomic keyboard and mouse driven activities such as having the hands bend backwards and fingers raised while hovering over a keyboard ready to type.

The tight and potentially knotted extensor muscles end up being over used, and don’t get the chance to recover. This leaves them in a permanently fatigued state, tightly tensioning the forearm tendons to which the extensor muscles are attached, causing referred pain down the tight tendons into the hands, wrist and fingers.

Forearm Extensor Muscles
Forearm Extensor Muscles

The forearm extensor muscles consist of five main muscles and are shown colour coded in their approximate position in the image above. The image is meant for indication only, and I recommend you search for a more detailed anatomical diagram for a more accurate placement.

The five forearm extensor muscles are –

  1. Extensor carpus radialis longus which attaches to the index finger but controls bending of the wrist towards the thumb as well as bending the wrist back.
  2. Extensor carpi radialis brevis which attaches to the middle finger and again controls the raising of the wrist.
  3. Extensor digitorum which attaches to all four fingers of the hand but controls the straightening of the 3rd, 4th, 5th fingers.
  4. Extensor carpi ulnarus which attaches to the 5th finger and is used to cock the wrist outwards, for example reaching for a far away key on a keyboard.
  5. Extensor indicis attaches from not far behind the wrist to the index finger and is the primary control muscle of that finger.

The extensor muscles exist at different depths in the arm and some are hard to precisely locate.

Over use strains along any of these extensor muscles from bad ergonomic practices (like having a clawed wrist at a keyboard) can lead to them developing knots (solid tissue that is scarred). This scarring results in pain (to press on at the location of the knots) but is mainly noticeable as referred pain down the forearms into the back of the hands and fingers – which is a classic RSI symptom. The extensor muscles (apart from the extensor indicis)  attach to various bones around the elbow joint, and some pain symptoms can also be found close in to the attachment points.

You can do a check to see how fatigued your forearm extensor muscles are. Using your left hand to check your right forearm extensor muscles press down firmly with the thumb onto the full area of the various forearm extensor muscles, move the position of the thumb over these muscles and check for pain. Repeat the diagnosis with the left arm extensor muscles and your right thumb.


If you are in any doubt about what these muscles do, press your thumb on your arm as above and raise your wrist up as if you were about to type. Also raise and wiggle your fingers. With your thumb, you should be able to feel the various extensor muscles tightening as your wrist and fingers raise.

If you find the extensor muscles to be in pain with the above procedure then these muscles are fatigued. It also means that ergonomically, you are not using your keyboard properly and are probably typing using the claw, which causes this type of problem. This type of condition is one of the most common mechanisms for RSI pain, but can easily be addressed by changing the way you type.

If you are experiencing pain in these muscles, it is time to try to relieve them which can be done by massage, icing and rest. Consult your doctor or a trained physiotherapist to find out the best techniques which may include ultrasound. You should also read my post about Trigger Point  Therapy on extensor forearm muscles which describes my findings from an excellent book for self help in RSI diagnosis and massage techniques. You may also want to try to find a knowledgeable Trigger Point massage therapist.

It is also time to re-assess your typing technique otherwise you may be placing yourself at risk of an RSI type condition. This may send the forearm extensor muscles into a more permanently fatigued state, from which recovery may be difficult, and in some extreme cases may be impossible.

In my own case, forearm muscle fatigue is the primary mechanism for my RSI pain. Unfortunately for me, I learned of the prevention techniques several years after my symptoms began, when these symptoms had already become more persistent.  I do however still get some much needed temporary pain relief these days from massage of the forearm extensor muscles and tendons, just not very long  lasting , but my injury is after all a long term one.

Related articles on forearm extensor muscles :

Typing with clawed hands

Forearm extensor muscle overuse wrist position and RSI

Does forearm extensor trigger point massage offerer a potential cure for RSI?

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Does forearm extensor trigger point massage offerer a potential cure for RSIDoes forearm extensor trigger point massage offerer a potential cure for RSI??
Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms)

This is a follow on article from Part 1 which dealt with managing Initial RSI Symptoms.

The following is relevant if you have been experiencing RSI symptoms for a few months and they are now persistent in nature.

wrist_pain.jpgThe rate of success in dealing with RSI symptoms is proportional to the speed that a sufferer can diagnose the causes of those symptoms, and their understanding of the corrective actions required to avoid further injury.

The onset time for RSI injuries can be fairly rapid (in my own case I went from having initial symptoms to intermediate symptoms within 3 to 4 months. It is therefore vital that sufferers glean RSI knowledge as fast as possible, try to understand the causes of their symptoms, and make the necessary adjustments to their working practices.

So the scenario for this article is of a worker who has had RSI symptoms for a few months, and is experiencing any of the following –

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

RSI – will workers ever listen?

RSI is in the news again today with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy calling for employers to take RSI injuries more seriously. Among their recommendations are – regular breaks for workers, access to Occupational Health Specialists, and risk assessments for employees. All of these suggestions are great, and need to be seriously looked at since there appears to be a spiraling in the numbers of cases of RSI injuries. In the same article, according to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 115,00 new cases of RSI reported in the UK alone last year.

Coming from an office environment with a large employer, I have witnessed first hand how difficult it is to educate a workforce in the dangers of using a computer. Employers can spend vast sums of money on employee ergonomic education and can still make little impact on workers’ perceptions on computer use.