Tips to prevent RSI

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can be caused by a variety of tasks at work, such as forceful or repetitive activity, or by poor posture.

The condition mostly affects parts of the upper body, such as the forearm, elbow, wrist, hands, shoulders and neck.

RSI is usually associated with doing a particular activity repeatedly or for a long period of time.

Find out more about the symptoms and the treatment of RSI.

How to prevent RSI

These practical tips can help reduce your risk of developing RSI and other related disorders that can arise from working with computers.

Making sure your desk equipment is properly set up and adjusted to your specifications is the first step in preventing RSI.

Get advice on how to sit correctly to make sure you're sitting in the right position and your desk is set up the right way.

The standard keyboard and mouse are adjustable devices with settings that you can change in the same way you might adjust your office chair.

Various types of non-standard keyboards are available. They may improve the positioning of your hands.

Some people find the standard mouse uncomfortable as it involves twisting the wrist. Alternative mice and other pointing devices are worth investigating.

You could also consider speech recognition software, which allows you to control your phone or a computer application by using your voice.

Ask your workplace about getting a workstation assessment.

Your mouse

  • Changing the settings to slow your mouse down can greatly reduce muscle tension in your hand.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse to navigate and execute commands.
  • The mouse keys feature allows you to use the arrow keys on your keyboard's number pad to move the pointer around the screen.
  • Download mousetool free software. It takes away the need to click on the mouse, which many people find painful. You may need to get permission from your employer to download the software.

Your keyboard

  • You can adjust the keyboard's key repeat rate to avoid mistakes that you then have to go back and correct.
  • Use StickyKeys, a Windows function that allows you to press one key at a time to write capital letters and other multi-key commands to avoid having to hold a modifier key down, such as Shift, Ctrl or Alt while pressing another key.
  • Predictive text and autocorrect features guess what you want to type and save you unnecessary keystrokes.  

Take regular breaks

Don't sit in the same position for long periods. Short, regular breaks can help prevent RSI and other upper limb disorders.

It lets the muscles relax while others take the strain. This can prevent you becoming stiff and tense.

Most jobs provide opportunities to take a break from the screen, such as photocopying or printing. Try to make use of them.

If there are no such natural breaks in your job, your employer should plan for you to have rest breaks.

Healthy back at work

Trevor Shaw, principal ergonomist, explains how bad posture contributes to health problems including back pain. He describes how to improve your health at work.

Media last reviewed: 08/07/2015

Next review due: 08/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 22/07/2016

Next review due: 22/07/2019

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Workplace health

Improve your health at work, with tips on dealing with stress, RSI, back pain, exercise and healthy lunches