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Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). ECE 417/617: Elements of Software Engineering. Stan Birchfield Clemson University. You are a computer athlete. A dangerous occupation:. This is also dangerous:. As a typical computer user, you “walk” several miles each day on your fingertips.

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Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

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repetitive strain injury rsi

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

ECE 417/617:Elements of Software Engineering

Stan Birchfield

Clemson University

you are a computer athlete
You are a computer athlete

A dangerous occupation:

This is also dangerous:

As a typical computer user, you “walk”

several miles each day on your fingertips

(250 keystrokes / min) * (2 in / keystroke) * 4 hours = 2 miles

what is rsi
What is RSI?
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
    • is pain or nerve problems in upper extremity (hands, arms, or shoulders)
    • can also include neck and back
    • is a soft tissue disease (muscles and nerves)
    • is an overuse syndrome
  • Symptoms:
    • burning, numbness, tingling, pins-and-needles
    • dull aching OR specific, intense pain
  • Controversial:
    • many deny it exists
    • sufferers receive little support from employers
the cost of rsi
The cost of RSI
  • $20 billion per year [Information Week, Nov. 9, 1992]
  • $29,000 average compensation
  • accounts for 60% of all job-related injuries [Department of Labor]
  • Approx. ¾ of all jobs require using a computer
carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a specific type of RSI
  • Swelling increases pressure on nerves to fingers
  • Problem is only in wrist
  • Most RSI is more widespread (neck, back, arms, shoulders)
bad posture
Bad posture



ulnar deviation


anatomy of hand nerves
Anatomy of hand nerves

brachial plexus

Thoracic outlet:

  • b/w collarbone and rib #1

Brachial plexus:

  • braided nerves
  • also supplies shouder, neck, and arm muscles

Three nerves:

  • Medianthrough carpal tunnel
  • Ulnar“funny bone”
  • Radialextensor muscles




traditional solutions
Traditional solutions
  • Surgery
  • Wrist braces
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Pain killers
  • Cortisone shots
  • Ergonomic keyboard, mouse, etc.

Why should you be cautious?

keep in mind
Keep in mind
  • Long-term problem  long-term solution
  • The pain may move
  • The pain may go away temporarily, even though the problem is not solved
  • Musculoskeletal system (muscles, tendons, and bones) adapts
  • Body is meant to move
    • Ergonomics are important, but beware of trying to achieve “perfect posture”
outline of a solution
Outline of a solution
  • Stretching
  • Movement
  • Strength

Also posture, massage, remove wallet from back pocket,hot/cold treatment, ergonomic keyboard / mouse,

better chair, ...

computer vision syndrome cvs
Computer vision syndrome (CVS)
  • Computer screens are different from printed material
    • Contrast is not sharp
    • Edges of characters are not well-defined
  • Our eyes have difficulty focusing
    • Instead, eyes drift to the resting point of accommodation (RPA)
    • Eyes involuntarily move to RPA, then strain to regain focus
  • Results
    • Fatigue, tired eyes from continuous flexing
    • Dry eyes from not blinking enough
final advice
Final advice
  • You think RSI will never happen to you
  • When you start feeling pain, you will
    • ignore it
    • learn to bear it
    • expect it to go away on its own
  • When your pain disappears temporarily, you will think problem is solved
  • When your pain intensifies gradually, you will continue to ignore it until it is serious

 Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong! Be aware! Do not ignore the symptoms! Seek help when the pain first appears, before it becomes a serious problem!

for further reading
For further reading
  • Damany and Bellis,It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!
  • Pascarelli, Repetitive Strain Injury