Human beings throughout history have created a wide range of engineering marvels and seemingly miraculous machines, yet they all pale in comparison to the hands that crafted them. Each of your hands contains over one-tenth of all the bones in your body, giving you a range of motion unmatched by engineered mechanisms.

In a way, your hands are the most valuable tools that you possess. However, they are susceptible to repetitive stress injuries (RSI.) Left untreated, these can diminish your productivity at the very least. You can qualify for a workers’ compensation claim if you developed repetitive stress injuries because of your job duties. Nevertheless, because these injuries come on gradually, it is important to report them as soon as you become aware of a problem.

Risk factors

If you spend long hours working at a computer, you may be at risk for RSI of your hands. However, computer work is not the only cause of repetitive stress injuries. Other contributing factors include exposure to heavy vibrations and cold temperatures. People who work outside and use motorized equipment, such as groundskeepers and construction workers, may be at high risk.

Symptoms and treatment

People with RSI often experience the following symptoms in the affected area, in addition to pain:

  • Heat or cold sensitivity
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Swelling

Treatment for work-related RSI may include a “work-hardening” physical therapy program. This involves a program of physical therapy exercises designed around your work requirements to prepare you to perform them safely and more effectively. Splinting or wrapping of the affected area, anti-inflammatory medication and conservative measures including elevation, ice and rest may also help treat symptoms. If these treatments do not work, surgery may be an option.

Preventing RSI

The federal government requires employers to create ergonomic workspaces in the interest of RSI prevention. Depending on your work duties, you should make sure that you have the proper physical conditioning. As well, regardless of your job, you should understand good body positioning principles to minimize your risk.