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What are the causes of RSI?

Should you be bothered about RSI?

How can you avoid RSI?

Other Major Computer Related Injuries

Is there treatment in Ayurveda for RSI and CRI?

Repetitive Stress Injury / Computer Related Injury

In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of otherwise healthy individuals have developed a painful, debilitating and sometimes disabling condition known as Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Repetitive stress injuries are conditions caused by placing too much stress on a joint, and they vary in type and severity. Most RSIs are linked to the stress of repetitive motions at the computer or overuse injuries in sports. RSI in kids may occur from heavy computer or video game use, playing musical instruments, or the repetitive motion of sports like tennis. RSI affects the neck, upper back, shoulder, upper and lower arm, elbow, wrist or hand, or a combination of these areas, which leads either to impairment or to participation problems.
RSI is not a modern problem. In 1713 the Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini recorded that the incessant hand movements of clerks caused “maladies”. In the 1840’s there was an epidemic of writers’ cramp among service clerks in London. The term RSI was introduced in Australia in the 1970’s with the introduction of visual display units in the workplace.

RSI is also known as Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WRMSD), Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), Computer Related Injury (CRI), Work Related Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD), and Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS).

The following professions / groups are prone to RSI:

  • Children
  • Check-out clerks
  • Computer Users
  • Hairdressers
  • Health Professionals: Surgeons, Dentists, Nurses, Massage Therapists
  • Housewives
  • Laboratory workers
  • Manual Labourers, Assembly Line Workers
  • Musicians
  • Sportspersons
  • Teachers
  1. 15-25% of all computer users worldwide (both vocational and recreational) are estimated to have RSI. By this estimate, over 5 million Indian computer users (out of an estimated 28 million) may already be having RSI.
  2. In USA, in 1999, RSI accounted for 66% of all work-related illnesse.
  3. A survey of 500 software professionals at Hyderabad in 2000 revealed that over 50% had symptoms of established RSI.
Preliminary results of our ongoing prospective study among over 35,000 Indian computer professionals (2001-2008) found that over 75% reported musculoskeletal symptoms. This is the largest study ever undertaken to identify the prevalence, causes and results of treatment of Computer Related RSI.
What are the causes of RSI?
RSI arises due to the following factors:

  • Prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements
  • Poor posture
  • "Static loading" or holding a posture which promotes muscle tension for a long period
  • Poor conditioning of the heart and lungs, and poor muscle endurance
  • Direct mechanical pressure on tissues
  • Cold work environment
  • Poorly fitting furniture
  • Basic inadequacies of keyboard, monitor and workstation design
  • Work organisational and psychosocial issues
A brief description of what causes RSI of the hand
Restricted blood flow is often the culprit. Lack of blood to the muscles, tendons and nerves can cause or aggravate a host of conditions, even, perhaps, arthritis. When you tense a muscle to just 50% of its ability, the blood flowing through the capillaries in the muscle can be completely shut off. Tensed muscle fibres pressure the capillaries thereby restricting the blood flow. As the muscle is continually tensed and no fresh blood is supplied, it switches from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism. This produces by-products such as lactic acid which can build up and cause cell damage and pain. Subsequently, the neighbouring muscles work harder to help carry the load, but because they are not designed to do the job as efficiently, those muscles fatigue (anaerobic) even faster.

Muscle tension, therefore, restricts blood flow and restricted blood flow causes more tension in other muscles. If the muscles are not allowed to relax, cellular degeneration can rapidly increase as a vicious cycle takes hold. The tensed muscles also pressure surrounding nerves which causes tingling, numbness, and more subsequent injury. In addition, the lack of blood increases the likelihood of degeneration and inflammation throughout the system and, of course, retards healing. And though the cycle may stop when you rest your hands, by the time you feel any symptoms, the damage has already started. Consequently, it will take less stress to bring on symptoms in the future.

Repeated tensing of the hand can cause the fibres of the tendons running through the carpal tunnel to separate or break. This causes friction between the tendon and its sheath (tenosynovium) and ultimately tendonitis. Tenosynovitis occurs when the sheath cannot properly lubricate the tendon it surrounds due the repetitive hand movement and the sheath itself becomes inflamed. Tightly gripping something for too long and forceful movements can lead to problems as well.

The two most common forms of RSI are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendon Injuries
Should you be bothered about RSI?
  1. You could be at risk! It does not matter whether you are a week old in the industry or whether you are the CEO.
  2. RSI can seriously disrupt work and domestic life. There have been instances of employees being declared unfit and losing their jobs due to advanced and neglected RSI.
  3. RSI is not a compensable occupational illness in India, even though billions of dollars are spent worldwide annually as a consequence of RSI. There are no protective laws once workers get injured and are unable to work productively. The onus of RSI prevention is entirely on you.
  4. If RSI is not diagnosed and treated correctly and at an early stage, it can lead to a dreaded and crippling complication called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.
Conditions that are the result of RSIs include:
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Swelling inside a narrow "tunnel" formed by bone and ligament in the wrist; the tunnel surrounds nerves that conduct sensory and motor impulses to and from the hand, leading to pain, tingling, and numbness
  • Cervical radiculopathy: Disc compression in the neck, often caused by repetitive cradling of a phone on the shoulder
  • Epicondylitis: Elbow soreness often known as "tennis elbow"
  • Ganglion cyst: Swelling or lump in the wrist resulting from jelly-like substance that has leaked from a joint or tendon sheath
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy: A condition characterized by dry, swollen hands and loss of muscle control; consistently painful.
  • Tendonitis: Tearing and inflammation of tendons connecting bones to muscles
You can help prevent RSI by taking preventive measures and redesigning your home computer environment
How can you avoid RSI?
In today's working environment the number of people working on PCs has increased rapidly. Computer power allows workers to increase productivity. However, this also tends to increase monotony, muscle strain and fatigue. In addition, computers make it possible to cut the work breaks and increase the pace of work leading to injuries, associated with computer use, becoming more pronounced.
We still do not know the full, long term consequences of a working lifetime on computers because computer technology has not yet been around long enough. What we do know is that users are suffering from a range of injuries associated with computer use and that they are all preventable.
Computer related injuries cover a wide variety of health problems caused by or contributed to by computer usage. These can be broadly divided in to three groups.

  1. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  2. Back Problems
Eye Strain & Discomfort
Other Major Computer Related Injuries
Back Pain
Musculoskeletal back problems are the largest cause of disability amongst people of working age. 30% of adults become chronic sufferers. The highest incidences of back pain are found in workers whose jobs are entirely sedentary or entirely manual.
The human body is not designed to remain in a sedentary position for long periods of time. Unfortunately most visual display unit users do occupy sedentary positions for the majority of their working day. The sedentary position occupied whilst using a computer is not good for a users back and many office workers suffer from back pain. The problem is exacerbated if the user has a low general level of fitness.
There is a common misconception that it is only secretary’s and data entry clerks that suffer from back pain through sitting at their desk for too long. Back pain does not discriminate and there are sufferers throughout the office hierarchy.

Eye Strain & Discomfort
People who use visual display units (VDUs) for extended periods of time can suffer from tired eyes, discomfort and headaches. Staring at a computer screen can lead to a drop in blink rate causing dry eye. Undertaking more demanding tasks with your eyes can cause headaches and users may become aware of an eyesight problem they had not noticed before.

There is no evidence that using VDUs causes permanent damage to eyes. The impact of any serious injury caused at work creates a dramatically negative effect on the overall performance of the company itself. Pain experienced at work immediately affects both the morale and the productivity of employees. Loss of morale on the part of the injured employee in the workplace linked to working practices often creates a ripple effect throughout the company resulting in a discontented work force.
Is there treatment in Ayurveda for RSI and CRI?
Ayurveda today, has found the answers to RSI and CRI related problems and an effective regimen has been designed to treat people suffering from RSI and CRI. Ayurveda Clinics has a comprehensive programme called Nava Tejas for RSI / CRI.

Treatment Includes:      
1.    Lifestyle corrections
2.    Internal herbal remedies

External Ayurvedic therapies like Abyangam, Pichu, Thalam, Pizhichil, Dhara, Kizhies (bundle massage with leaves, herbal powders and medicated rice), Sirovasthy, Greevavasthy, Netratarpanam etc. help to mitigate the effects of RSI and CRI. Advanced detoxifying Panchakarma therapies would also be suitably incorporated to prevent recurrence of these problems
    Health Help Shortcuts
  * Arthritis
* Asthma
* Back Pain
* Blood Pressure
* Cervical Spondylosis

  * Depression
* Frozen shoulder
* Headaches
* Migraine
* Panchakarma
  * Psoriasis
* Rheumatism
* Repetitive Stress
* Sciatica
* Sinusitis
* Tuberculosis