On the last day of February, the only non-repetitive day of the year, multiple events take place around the world each to acknowledge Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day. Each event aims to raise awareness about painful yet preventable musculoskeletal disorders.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an umbrella term for a number of overuse injuries affecting the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and nerves) of the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 4.5 million Canadian adults annually experience a Repetitive Strain Injury that is serious enough to limit normal, day-to-day activities, and comes with an economic burden estimated at $22 billion annually. The majority of these injuries are caused by work-related activities and are not limited to those in physically demanding fields. The office environment has its own unique hazards. The repetitive motions that office-based workers have grown accustomed to such as sitting, clicking, lifting, twisting, and reaching can lead to soft tissue injuries to the neck, shoulders and back. Typically arising as aches and pains, these injuries can progress to become crippling disorders that prevent sufferers from working or leading normal lives.
The risk of RSI must be reduced in workplaces, including office spaces. An important first step is acknowledging that is all employees are different and providing them with an ergonomic workstation that is adaptable to their individual requirements. Proper ergonomic seating will help prevent lower back pain, while ergonomic accessories such as monitor arms help position computer monitor at eye level to prevent injuries to the neck.
Most importantly, employers need to realize that ergonomics provides the greatest benefit when it is applied early in the design of a work system rather than as a solution to problems discovered after the fact.