Simple but highly effective ways to avoid your child suffering from RSI.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is the term used to refer to pain experienced in tendons, nerves or muscles caused by repetitive movement and overuse. It is most commonly associated with office workers staring at a computer screen all day.

RSI is a common problem, but what isn’t common knowledge is that it can affect people of all ages. In fact, children are particularly susceptible to it – especially as many spend long periods of time on computers, games consoles or mobile phones. In this post, we will explain some simple but highly effective ways you can avoid your child suffering from RSI.

Prevent RSI in children

Why is RSI such a problem?

A clue to why RSI can become such a problem is really in its name: ‘repetitive strain’. If you repeatedly put a part of your body under strain, it stands to reason that the strain will gradually get worse. Your body will be put under more and more strain. Ultimately, more strain equals more pain.

Look at this way, if you like to go jogging and you sprain an ankle; you might, at first, try to ‘run it off’ and carry on. Normally though, you realise that isn’t going to work and you stop running for a time, until the muscles have been given time to heal and the pain subsides.

However, if you are an adult who works at a computer all day and you develop a strain injury, the chances are you will keep on working in the same way. Because you have to. It’s your job.

A child who uses a computer to surf the web or plays on a games console might develop a strain injury too. Similarly, like the adult worker in an office, they will continue. Because they want to. It’s what they do for fun and relaxation.

In both situations, the repetitive strain will just continue to get worse. It won’t go away.

Children as young as 7 have been diagnosed with RSI and it can be an incredibly debilitating condition. And the longer you leave an RSI, the harder it is to cure it.

Prevention is better than cure

In fact, in many ways, there isn’t a cure for RSI – certainly not one that happens quickly. You will need to modify your behaviours and change your habits considerably over time for the pain to subside. A lengthy period of physiotherapy is often required.

With RSI, prevention is definitely better than cure.

Here are some top tips for how to avoid repetitive strain injury taking hold.

The importance of taking regular breaks

We’ll start with some very general advice. Taking regular breaks away from the computer is important. Ideally, this should be a few minutes every half hour or ten minutes in every hour. Massaging your hands and arms will restore the circulation and give your muscles and tendons a good refresh. Giving your fingers a flex and stretching your arms out to the side and above the head are also useful exercises.

Above all, move. Being sedentary for too long can cause a wide variety of health problems. Getting up and moving around the room or walking up and down the stairs two or three times can really help.

Taking regular breaks is also a great boost for productivity and it also aids concentration. Professional writers and university students writing dissertations are especially prone to RSI because they are typing for prolonged periods. However, it doesn’t matter whether you are trying to complete your thesis or trying to get to the next level on a computer game – taking a short break, walking about and stretching for a few minutes will reduce the risk of RSI and improve your concentration levels at the same time.

How to sit with the correct posture in a chair

It’s very important to have the correct body posture when sitting in a chair. Sit incorrectly and it could cause back problems.

It is recommended that you sit in the following way. Move your hips back as far as the chair allows you. Next, adjust the height of the seat so that you can place your feet flat on the floor. Your upper legs should be flat too – meaning that your knees the same height as your hips. This means that there is a straight 90 degree angle between your upper and lower leg.

Adjust the back-rest in such a way that is has an angle between 100 and 110 degrees. You can do this by first putting the back-rest in a full upright position and moving it slightly back. Make sure that your upper and lower back are well supported by the backrest.

How to position yourself behind a keyboard

It’s really important that you do this. Firstly, doing so will enable you to type faster. Secondly, it will prevent injuries. The keyboard should be placed on a flat surface. The ideal distance between you and the desk is the one that allows you to reach the centre of the keyboard with your fingers. Your elbows should be slightly in front of – and separated from – your body. Your underarm and hand form a straight line parallel to the inclination of the keyboard.

When you type your hands should be floating above the keyboard. The palms of your hand should also be above the keyboard and should never rest on it. The top of the monitor should be at the same height as your eyes. Now that you are in the correct position it is important to type by pressing the keys in a smooth way using the tops of your fingers. It isn’t necessary to put a lot of pressure on the keys. Always look at the screen and never at the keyboard.

The combined causes of RSI

Repetitive strain injury is usually caused by a combination and cumulative build-up of a number of factors: poor posture, repetitive movements and over-use.

However, if you get your posture right from the outset and take regular breaks, RSI is avoidable.

Essentially, RSI is caused by bad habits – and habits are hard to break. If you get yourself into good habits, however, you won’t want or need to break them.

The final piece of advice is important. You should never, ever, ignore any stiffness, tingling, numbness, aches or pains. The sooner you face the symptoms of RSI the better, as long-term damage can happen otherwise.