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Repetitive Strain Injuries

The answer is to be found in hindsight. It won't help those who are already victims, but there might be some small compensation for them in the knowledge that others are aware of the problems they now face and are taking steps to avoid the dire consequences of poor work practices. It doesn't require a medical degree to recognise the symptoms. Initially, the discomfort may only be slight - a sore wrist or neck which is merely annoying, but nothing to worry about because it is usually gone by morning. Then one day it is still there, just a hint at first, getting more noticeable as another day wears on. The repetitive strain injury has begun and will continue to worsen unless action is taken to address the cause. Standing at a bench or table for long periods is harder still when the work surface is a little high to perform duties naturally without too much stretching and straining. A simple wooden board or dais to stand on might alleviate the problem - an inch or two can make a big difference. The same applies to those sitting at computers all day. Correct posture and back support are essential, so the chair must be suitable for the individual using it. One would imagine desks are all a uniform height - they aren't, so the chair will need adjusting to ensure an operator's wrists aren't bent at the wrong angle when typing on the keyboard. Using the mouse is a one-hand job and is a frequent cause of RSI; but most of us have two hands. It just takes a little practice to switch from one to the other on a regular basis. Whether the type of work permits this or not, the rules applicable to the keyboard are still valid. If the height of the mouse pad and the angle of the wrist are causing discomfort, even if only mild at first, failing to rectify this can and will cause problems down the track.

The causes and effects of repetitive strain injury are too numerous to mention; but I don't really need to go into them in detail. Every job carries its own risks, some unique, others common across the board; all should be taken seriously. As soon as the kind of discomfort I have described is first noticed, that is the time to do something about it - later might be too late! I know some will argue that they have families to support and can't afford to lose a good job by complaining about work conditions and getting the management offside. To these people I say this: what kind of support will you be able to offer when permanent injury and disability prevents you from doing that job, or any other? RSI is a serious ailment that is painful, often lifelong and severely limits a sufferer's mobility, both at work and at home. Physical it may be, but it also has psychological repercussions from a lowering of self-worth to deep depression. Surely, nobody wants any of this?

Be very aware of those nagging little aches and pains that refuse to go away. Try to figure out the cause; or if there seem too many possibilities, focus on those actions that obviously make them worse. Then do something positive to remedy the problem by adopting better work habits. You could find a few simple changes will suffice; then the job which you need to do will be easier, and you'll be able to keep doing it for much longer.

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