Four RSI Questions Answered

What are the characteristics of RSI?

RSI is characterized by nonspecific upper extremity pain that results from engagement in cumulative hand-intensive tasks.

Am I at risk?

Occupations at greatest risk for RSI are in service and manufacturing industries, including any job with computer and keyboard use.

What about treatment?

Physical activity should be encouraged. Efforts should be made to keep patients at work with accommodations, as indicated. Ergonomic modifications may be considered.

Could technological advancements help avoid RSI?

Advancing technology, including voice recognition software, may enhance the ergonomic environment and help to alleviate symptoms.


Standing desks might be worse than sitting

A highly-cited study out last year in the Journal of Epidemiology on 7,000 office workers found that, “Occupations involving predominantly standing were associated with an approximately 2-fold risk of heart disease compared with occupations involving predominantly sitting.”


it’s probably best if workers rely on occasional walks rather than standing desks.



Both work posture and stress may contribute to musculoskeletal symptoms

physical exposures at work influence the development of musculoskeletal symptoms in the neck-shoulder and wrist-hand regions. However, the results also suggest that a psychosocial exposure (social support) and perceived stress symptoms influence musculoskeletal symptoms.


Symptoms in the wrist-hand region were predicted by stress symptoms (OR 1.7, CI 1.12-2.71)


For women,

Symptoms in the wrist-hand region were predicted by stress symptoms (OR 1.7, CI 1.16-2.41)




Office worker? Stand up and walk!

Office workers tend to sit. A lot.

Spending too much time sitting can be detrimental to our health. There is “significant evidence on the adverse cardio-metabolic health consequences of sitting” [1]. Additionally, “high levels of TV time were significantly associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality” [1].

Interestingly, daily exercise alone does not seem to offset the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. “Even if daily exercise recommendations are met, metabolic health might be compromised if sitting occurs without regular breaks”. [2].

The one most important thing you can do, is to take breaks from sedentary time. According to [2], “breaks in sedentary time (as distinct from the overall volume of time spent being sedentary) were shown to have beneficial associations with metabolic biomarkers”.

During your work day, you should get up and move briefly regularly. Having a higher number of breaks in sedentary time was “beneficially associated with waist circumference, body mass index, triglycerides, and 2-h plasma glucose” [1].

So what is a good sitting/standing ratio? “Wellness perception varies across sit:stand ratios, typically greatest near 24:6.” [3]. This ratio ties up nicely with the Pomodoro technique [3]:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes. Start working.
  • Then, take a 5 minute break. Get up and move away from you desk. Try being lightly/moderately active. Walk around, stretch, maybe do a bit of light strength training.
  • Repeat.


  1. Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior (link)
  2. Different sit:stand time ratios within a 30-minute cycle change perceptions related to musculoskeletal disorders (link)
  3. Wikipedia page on Pomodoro Technique