Dr. Jack Rutherford

If you work at a job that involves repetition and/or sustained positions, you’re likely to be at risk of repetitive stress injury (RSI).

Common sites for RSIs include the neck, shoulder, lower back, wrist, hand and elbow.

Symptoms range from mild discomfort in the early stages to debilitating pain, and can include tingling, numbness, reduced range of motion and loss of strength.

Of course, the best tactic with RSIs is to prevent them in the first place. So how does one do that?

Here are a few strategies from Terrie Heinrich Rizzo, a certified ergonomics specialist at the Stanford University Health Improvement Program.

1) At work and home, arrange equipment to fit your physical characteristics and comfort. This includes, for example, the angle of your wrists when striking the keyboard. If you have the services of an ergonomics expert at work, their advice can be beneficial.

2) Practice good body mechanics and lifting posture when performing tasks.

3) If you know of postural and muscular imbalances, work on correcting them using stretching and resistance exercises.

4) Do on-the-job exercises such as the ones that follow to provide relief from static postures.

Shoulder push, pull

With arms outstretched and palms facing forward, gently push your hands forward while pulling your shoulders back. Do the exercise with the arms at your sides, at shoulder height, and straight overhead. Hold each position 10 to 30 seconds.

Neck stretch

While sitting, grab the underside of the chair with your left hand. Then tilt your head towards the right shoulder while pulling your left shoulder downward. You should feel the stretch on the left side of the neck. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Chest, shoulder stretch

Tuck your chin in, contract your abdominal muscles and clasp your hands behind your back. Keeping your chest elevated, rotate your shoulders outward so your elbows point backward rather than forward. The contract and depress your shoulder blades, pushing your hands down. Hold 10 to 30 seconds.

Standing hamstring stretch

Extend your right leg forward with your foot lightly flexed. Bend your left knee and lean slightly forward from the hips. Place your hands on your thighs for support. Keep the knee of the extended leg bent slightly and maintain a neutral spine. Do not round your back or keep your forward leg rigid. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.

Shoulder, midback stretch

Crossing your left arm across your chest, place your right palm against your left elbow and press your left arm into your chest. Simultaneously round your back slightly for a gentle stretch in the middle back. Hold 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the other arm.

Cable lift

Sit up straight in a chair and imagine a cable attached to your head pulling you toward the ceiling. In other words, make your posture as upright as possible. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Take deep breaths during this exercise.

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