These days people are spending more time than ever with shoulders hunched over computers, cell phones, tablets and other pieces of technology. Poor posture combined with hours of typing, texting, mouse-moving and neck-craning has led to a rise in repetitive motion injuries (RPI).
RPI occurs when muscles or tissues are used too often to repair themselves properly. These painful, chronic injuries can be anywhere from mild to debilitating, affecting fingers, wrists, and the tendons, muscles and joints of the arms and shoulders. Beyond these issues, many people experience neck or back pain as well as shortened hip flexors and others body problems from too much time spent sitting in poor alignment.
It can be difficult to create self-care habits at work, especially if your workplace environment is particularly hectic or stressful. However, by taking the time to implement a few small habits in your day you will be saving yourself what could potentially be years of pain.
The following tips will help you take the necessary measures to prevent RPI from wreaking havoc on your body. If the adjustments seem overwhelming – start small! Choose one of the tips and try it out for a while, and then add another one. A little progress is always better than no progress at all!
- Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture is stellar for healing and preventing repetitive motion injuries. These tiny points pack a powerful punch for reducing pain and inflammation. Starting with a short course of 4 treatments will typically get you the shift you are seeking for long term pain relief. Once your healing is underway, we offer more suggestions below to keep you from re-injuring yourself.
- Cultivate Good Posture
For those whose job requires long hours spent sitting hunched over a computer or paperwork, it is imperative that you promote good posture. Many jobs require a lot of typing, which already places the body in an unnatural position. With so much strain being put on the small muscles and connective tissues of the arms, shoulders, hand and back, help yourself out by finding a nice neutral position to work in.
Think about lengthening through your spine and balancing your head easily on your top vertebrae. Pay attention to the placement of your shoulders to ensure that they’re not curling inward, which will place strain on your back. It may take some time of consciously noticing and adjusting your posture before it repatterns on its own but stick with it! Your body will thank you for it in the long run.
- Take Breaks Often
While it can be easy to get absorbed in your work, one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and fresh is to take regular breaks throughout your workday. By changing up your physical activity for a few minutes every hour you break repetitive motion patterns that are causing you fatigue and you give yourself a chance to recover. Go for a walk, grab a snack or some water and ease off the mouse, keyboard, heavy lifting or whatever motion your job asks you to repeat consistently throughout the day.
- Stretch Yourself Out
Stretching can be useful for prevention as well as recovery. Opening up the body through stretching is generally good practice, but in particular investing some time in counter-stretches will help you fight the good fight against RPI. Counter-stretches are those stretches which work in opposition to your habitual body positioning in order to provide balance.
For example, doorway stretches are meant to open up the chest, armpits and the front of the shoulder, which are all areas that get tight over many days spent in front of a computer or carrying heavy loads in front of the body. During breaks, take time to stretch out. It can ease your body and your mind, creating a less painful and more pleasurable workday.
- Invest in Ergonomic Tools and Equipment
There are many simple adjustments to your equipment that can greatly reduce your risk for RPI. Replace your flat keyboard with a curved, ergonomic keyboard and your regular old mouse with a trackball. Try switching out your unsupportive desk chair for a balance ball. Perhaps elevate your monitor so that your eyeline while in a neutral seated position is roughly 20% from the top of the screen. Test out various options and find what works for you. A good rule of thumb: If it causes stress don’t use it! It can be tempting to accept a “manageable” amount of pain rather than make a small but effective change. Show yourself some love and replace outdated, injury-causing equipment.
Come see us at The Village
If you’re already experiencing pain associated with RPI, Book Online Here at The Village Community Acupuncture to set up an appointment. By giving yourself the gift of healing with this ancient form of medicine along with making adjustments in your daily life, you will start to regain freedom from chronic pain associated with RPI. We look forward to working with you and helping you along your healing journey.