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Long hours in front of the computer? Beware of RSI
Sunday June 8, 2014 3:56 PM, Azera Parveen Rahman, IANS

Pain around the neck and upper limbs? Beware! It could be Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) that comes from spending long hours before a computer.

Computer Injury Risk

At the NH Narayana Multispeciality hospital in Bangalore, an average of 200 patients, all in the age group of 20-30 and mostly from the IT crowd, come with complaints of RSI), which is increasingly becoming common among youngsters in high-stress jobs and can take months to recover from.

"High stress jobs like in the IT industry that requires one to sit in front of the computer for 14-16 hours every day, leading them to slouch and sit in a bad posture, with hardly any physical activity, leads to Repetitive Strain Injury. It has become fairly common for youngsters to come with complaints of such nature," Malchira S. Somanna, consultant orthopaedician at Narayana hospital, told IANS.

Indications of RSI could be a tingling sensation in the hands with numbness, called Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, pain around the neck and upper shoulders, and feeling a "heavy burden" on the shoulders. Nearly 90 percent of the orthopaedic patients in the out patient department (OPD) of Narayana hospital are RSI patients from various multinational companies and IT industry.

It's a similar scenario in the national capital, where J.D. Mukherji, director, Neurology at Max Hospital, says that he gets two-three patients every day complaining of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

"Carpel Tunnel syndrome is very common and I get about 20 cases every week. This happens when the median nerve gets compressed, leading to tingling sensation in the hand that worsens at night," Mukherji told IANS. Carpel Tunnel syndrome patients, he added, are however not just young workers but also those suffering from diabetes, hypothyroidism, and rheumatic arthritis.

Treatment of RSI is usually multi-pronged, involving exercises and physiotherapy, and not just medicines, and it could take three weeks to six months to recover. Doctors say that if one ignores the pain and tries to live off painkillers, the condition has every chance to worsen and recovery may take longer.

"The treatment of RSI is to avoid using the affected tendons and nerves. For example overusing the phone can result in the inflammation of the elbow. So overusing the injured muscles can result in weakening of the muscle, and can even lead to disability. So the best prevention for such a situation is to avoid overusing affected muscles," Mukherji said.

Doctors suggest various ways to avoid overusing affected muscles. For instance, using a pen to hit the keyboard, changing the inclination of the computer to 15-20 degrees for a better posture, or using a chair that is more comfortable and is at an ideal height.

Raju Vaishya, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Apollo Hospital and president of the Arthritis Care Foundation, further said that writer's cramp (cramp in the hands), tennis elbow (elbow pain), and osteoarthritis (knee pain) are also common.

"RSI is caused because of repetitive use of the musculoskeletal system in performing certain sets of work without adequate breaks, and sometimes in a bad posture. This is why most of our patients, in the 25-35 age group, are into jobs that require long hours in front of the computer," Vaishya told IANS.

"Such stress causes pain and sometimes long-term disability. The prevention lies in avoiding repetitive stress at work by understanding the ergonomics of your job and taking mini breaks after every one hour. Sitting in a good posture at your work desk and using the computers in the most efficient and correct way can prevent a lot of RSI," he added.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at

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