Alleviating repetitive strain injury (RSI) naturally

With mobile phones making their way into younger and younger hands, I suspect increasing numbers of parents will be feeling some concern about the costs associated with these contraptions. However, according to a recent report, mobile phone users may have a price to pay that is not merely financial: the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) has warned that children fond of frequent texting are at risk of developing the condition known as ‘repetitive strain injury’. It seems that children are putting themselves at risk of pain an disability when the moving finger writes.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is believed to stem from repeated movements which can damage and cause inflammation in the soft tissues around the hand and/or wrist. While RSI is a term which is commonly used to cover a range of different ailments, it is not uncommon for RSI sufferers to be affected by a specific condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This malady is related to compression of one of the three main nerves to the hand (the median nerve) as it runs through the wrist. Classic symptoms of CTS include pain, numbness or tingling in the thumb, index, middle and the middle finger side of the ring finger.

Unnatural bending of the wrist is thought to be risk factor in CTS. Keyboard workers are at particular risk here, and may benefit from the use of a keyboard rest which helps keep the wrists straight during typing. From an ergonomic perspective, it is believed that keeping the forearms parallel to the floor is helps to prevent and alleviate CTS. Painkilling medication may help to quell the discomfort associated with CTS and RSI. From a natural health perspective, foods which may assist here through their anti-inflammatory action include omega-3 fats (found in flaxseed oil, and oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring), ginger and turmeric.

One specific nutrient that can be effective in the treatment of CTS is vitamin B6. Studies have found that sufferers of CTS tend to be deficient in this nutrient. Also, supplementation with this nutrient has been found, in some studies, to improve and sometimes completely resolve the symptoms of CTS. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include avocado, bananas and nuts. However, the typical dosages found to be useful in studies cannot practically be achieved through diet alone.

Those interested in trying B6 for their CTS should take 100 – 200 mg of this nutrient each day for three months. After this, I recommend taking a B-complex supplement which contains about 20 mg of vitamin B6. It should be borne in mind that very high doses of B6 may cause reversible nerve damage and symptoms, ironically, that are quite similar to those of CTS. However, the evidence shows that the risk of this is only relevant with daily dosages of B6 above 200 mg per day. In my experience, vitamin B6 supplementation is quite often effective in lending a helping hand to those affected by CTS.

3 Responses to Alleviating repetitive strain injury (RSI) naturally

  1. Richard Smith 21 January 2007 at 7:20 pm #

    CRS: Computer-Related Syndrome: The Prevention and Treatment of Computer-Related Injuries. By Richard Dean Smith, MD and Steve T. Garske, MS, PT.

    The computer workstation must be considered a potentially hazardous place. Computer keyboard workers are akin to armchair athletes subject to the same stresses and injuries experienced by athletes. Our purpose is to alert keyboard workers to early warning signs, explain how to best arrange workstations, provide both preventive and therapeutic exercises, and enable workers to ‘train’ for computer keyboard work. With drastic cutback of workers compensation insurance benefits, prevention and early intervention is especially important.

    Link: Prometheus Books. richardsmithmd.com.

  2. Leigh 3 July 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    In every organisation there are workers with some degree of special needs.

    It is the responsibility of every employer to make sure that they provide the tools to allow the employee to complete their work, in an environment which is safe and comfortable.

    In the UK, this responsibility is enforced by law. It’s called the Disability Discrimination Act and it requires that:

    All workplaces and places to which the public has access, provide whatever help may be needed to allow a disabled person to be involved in the company’s activities on as equal as possible a basis as an able-bodied person.

    Disability could mean dyslexia, a wheelchair user, somebody with low vision or an RSI sufferer.

    I am a copywriter and suffered the pain of RSI for the first time this year. The burning sensation in my fingers and wrist prevented me from doing my job! The company I work for instantly installed RSIGuard on my PC. It’s a piece of software which monitors your mouse movement and keyboard strokes. It offers breaks, exercises and tips to prevent and manage my pain. I was also given an Evoluent mouse to use. The best way to describe it is a mouse on it’s side! My hand was kept in a vertical position which was comfortable and felt more natural.

    It took some time to get used to doing the exercises, and I got some funny looks! But I don’t care as I’m not in pain anymore and now some other people in the office are using it too.

    It’s a real mark of the quality of company I work for that they acted quickly and found the right solution for me.

    The company they used to help me is http://www.keytools.co.uk.

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