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RSI is not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Tutorial FAQ

RSI is not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Adapting to the Modern Office
What is RSI?
Is RSI different from Carpal Tunnel?
Who is at Risk?
How can SmartNav help with RSI?
The ROI of Preventing RSI
Where can I find more Information on RSI?

Adapting to the Modern Office

The modern individual is extremely talented when it comes to adapting to their surroundings. Unlike any other species on the planet we are capable of manipulating our environment until it meets our desires. Above and beyond everything else is our capacity to modify our own anatomical structures and physiological processes to meet the challenges that new environmental conditions create. With this amazing ability to adapt, what environment could possibly create a challenge for us? The answer to that question is the modern office. Though rest assured, a remedy is at hand; the SmartNav from NaturalPoint.

“I saw an article in PC World describing the Smart-NAV. I got one for home, installed it, and after several hours of use was totally comfortable with it. This thing is amazing. For the first time in months I can use my computer without pain. The relief I feel is indescribable. Thanks for making such a great product!!”

What is RSI?

The term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is not a specific medical diagnosis and is more of an umbrella term for a number of musculoskeletal conditions affecting the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and nerves) of the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands. This tutorial will focus on how the SmartNav from NaturalPoint can help prevent and alleviate such injuries, especially those related to the arms and hands.

Conditions such as; tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, hand cramps etc. occur when repetition of body movements combined with strains on the body (gravity, awkward posture, etc.) result in tightened connective tissue. The connective tissue becoming tightened is the result of a phenomenon called "muscle memory". When a muscle is contracted repeatedly, the brain registers it as needing to be shorter, and it changes the "set-point" of the muscle, making it shorter. Likewise, when a person stretches on a regular basis, the brain registers the change and lengthens the muscle. This lengthening releases the tension on the insertion points of the muscle, and eliminates pain that is caused by the short muscle, or its tendon, pulling on the bone. By using a SmartNav you can easily eliminate many of the repetitive movements you perform everyday and decrease the chances of developing an RSI.

When you do the same motion over and over, such as repeatedly moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse and back, you are contracting the muscle continuously, and several things happen:
  1. The muscle fiber responds to "muscle memory" and permanently changes the muscle to the new shortened length. This causes problems to occur because the origination point and the insertion point remain the same, but the muscle is now too short to easily make the distance, so tension is placed on the muscle. While the tension can be at either end, it is more frequently felt at the insertion point at, or just over, the joint. By using a SmartNav a user can prevent this shortening of the muscle from ever happening, or achieve relief from pain while working to re-lengthen the muscle.
  2. As the muscle fiber is contracting, but the insertion points remain the same, the fiber may tear, causing pain in the muscle itself.
  3. As tension is put onto a muscle fiber tiny tears happen, causing the muscle to put out sticky exudates that stick to the fibers surrounding the injured fiber in a phenomenon called "splinting". When the muscle is splinted by other fibers, it is carried by the others while it is healing. However, after the fiber heals it is still stuck to the surrounding fibers, and you lose strength because this fiber is no longer effectively pulling on the tendon.
Reaching For Mouse It is important to note that when a muscle is pulling tightly on a joint, it is common for the joint to become stiff. Many people are told to strengthen the muscles that move the joint; however this is exactly the opposite of what actually needs to be done. The muscles need to be stretched, not strengthened. It is more important to perform stretching exercises as opposed to lifting weights, squeezing balls, cycling etc. If you were to merely strengthen the muscle it would continue to contract even further, causing the joint to become less and less mobile, potentially leading to a diagnosis of "arthritis" or "bursitis", and perhaps even a torn tendon or ligament.

Basically, RSI develops as a result of performing repetitive movements in an awkward and/or static posture which is caused by adapting to the inadequate working environment of the modern office. This in turn leads to the development of ‘muscle memory’ and can cause RSI conditions to occur in the hands, wrists, arms or shoulders. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, sharp pain, dull ache, weakness or loss of grip and restricted movement of limbs, all of which can render people incapable of carrying out the simplest of tasks. The good news is that the SmartNav can eliminate many of the repetitive movements that are carried out each day when using a computer and prevent such injuries from ever occurring. If you are already suffering then do not put up with it any longer, there is help and its name is SmartNAV.

“It has been so effective that I just ordered another one for work! It is my hope that by using the SmartNav in combination with ergonomic changes and more moderate computer use I will be able to continue working while recovering from this nasty affliction”

Is RSI different from Carpal Tunnel?

Anatomy Diagram The term “carpal tunnel syndrome” is generally best replaced with "hand/wrist pain and numbness", as the majority of Carpal Tunnel cases are actually repetitive strain injuries that involve muscles that cross over the median nerve. RSI symptoms can occur in any combination and often do not conform to one specific named type of disorder. As mentioned earlier, RSI is used as an umbrella term and generally includes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The confusion stems from the fact that many symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome also occur in a number of Repetitive Strain Injuries.

Other terms used interchangeably with RSI are Work Related Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD), and Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). Named types of RSI include: carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tennis elbow, De Quervain's Syndrome, etc.

The bottom line is that whether you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, RSI, or general aches and pains the SmartNav can help you alleviate them.

“My hands are usually sore by lunch break, but here it is 3.30 in the afternoon, and I have no pain”

Who is at Risk?

In general anyone who performs the same movements over a period of time are at risk for RSI. This means anyone from truck drivers to hair stylists to computer professionals are at risks for some form of RSI. Though people working with display screen equipment i.e. computers are particularly at risk. The traditional input devices, namely the keyboard and mouse, that computer professionals normally use, force the user to adapt their posture in order to adequately operate the input devices. The static tension of the muscles that occurs while operating a standard mouse and keyboard is thought to be one of the main causes of RSI in the case of those working in the computer industry. It is incredibly important that workers take appropriate breaks and use different muscles while working. With the SmartNav from NaturalPoint you can change the way you work by freeing yourself from the standard input devices of the past and prevent or eliminate pain from repetitive strain.

Remember, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that old adage applies to RSI. Repetitive Strain Injuries are much easier to prevent than to cure, which the SmartNav can help with. As mentioned above RSI occurs when repetitive movements are done at the same time as other strain is occurring in the body such as poor posture, awkward body position or static body position. Beyond using the SmartNav to prevent RSI, it is crucial to move and stretch the body to loosen the tightness that occurs when the above conditions exist. Proper sitting and standing posture will also enhance RSI prevention. It is also important to make sure that regular screen breaks are taken (see links below for more information on available software tools) and ensure that you and your employee's working environment meets reasonable ergonomic requirements for computer use.

The bottom line is that if you have employees who regularly use display screen equipment such as computers you should be aware of the risk of your employees developing RSI and take reasonable steps to prevent it, such as purchasing a SmartNav from NaturalPoint.

How can SmartNav help with RSI Relief and Prevention?

RSI is the result of repetitively straining muscles, which causes the muscles to develop a memory and shorten themselves. This puts added strain on the tendons that anchor the muscles resulting in the aches and pains associated with the early onset of RSI. The most important RSI prevention strategies are to educate employers and employees about the risks of RSI, identify any potential ergonomic issues in the workplace, recognize the early warning signs of RSI, and know that treatment is available when symptoms are experienced.

NaturalPoint offers two different models of their hands-free mouse, SmartNav EG and SmartNav AT. The SmartNav EG is the best model to address the issues that RSI and Carpal Tunnel present. The SmartNAV EG allows for hands free control of the cursor via your natural head motion and allows you to set up hotkeys on your keyboard to perform click functions. This eliminates the need to continuously reach over for the mouse and then go back to the keyboard. By reducing the amount of times you perform this motion, which may be several hundred times a day, you prevent the muscles involved from shortening and developing an RSI.

NaturalPoint's Footswitch If you are already experiencing symptoms of any repetitive strain injury, the most effective method of reducing the symptoms is to keep the muscles and tendons that are being strained continuously relaxed. This can be achieved by reducing or eliminating the need for your hands to touch a keyboard or mouse. The SmartNav EG offers complete mouse relief with a built in switch input allowing for up to two switch attachments. By attaching foot pedals or palm click switches to the SmartNav EG any mouse click function can be performed, eliminating the need to move between the keyboard and mouse.

“I really like the software. It's simple, but it's versatile. You can adjust the motion and responsiveness of it quite a lot, and you can save settings. You can have it work automatically, or you can activate/deactivate it with hotkeys.”

The ROI of Preventing RSI

Do you know what the costs of RSI in your organization are? While it is clear that RSI is a major problem for the computer profession, few know the true costs associated with such injuries. So what is the real ROI of RSI prevention? Well, research suggests that for every $1 invested in an ergonomics intervention strategy (e.g. purchasing a SmartNav for RSI prevention); there is a return of $17.80. (Buckle 1999 cited by RSIA). If you were to purchase a SmartNav for $199 and if it prevented even one repetitive strain injury your return on investment would be roughly $3,500 dollars. Organizations which employ strategies to improve work place economics have found that muscular-skeletal disorders resulting in lost work time are 3 times less likely to occur. (Schneider 1998 cited by RSIA). In general one can easily draw the conclusion that investing in RSI prevention just makes good business sense.

As we have discussed RSI symptoms usually include aches and pains that eventually progress to become crippling disorders that prevent sufferers from working or leading normal lives. This loss of ability to work and lead normal lives is a high price to pay, not only for employees, but also for the employers who are confronted with loss of productivity and an increasing number of days in sick leave and expenses for back to work training. For these employers and employees the costs of repetitive strain injuries can be tremendous:
  • Ignoring employee health and safety costs money and can result in civil or criminal liability. A workplace RSI prevention program is cost-effective insurance on your part. Don't wait until workplace RSI becomes an issue. By then it may already be too late.
  • According to the United States National Center for Health Statistics Carpal tunnel syndrome results in the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. Almost half of the carpal tunnel cases result in 31 days or more of work loss.
  • The TUC in the United Kingdom reported 5.4 million days lost in sick leave in 2003
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive strain injuries are the Nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of American workers, and costing more than $20 billion a year in workers compensation.
  • The cost to UK industry is likely to be between $5 billion and $20 billion annually (Source: estimate based on Buckle and Devereux, 1999)
TUC General Secretary John Monks said: “RSI affects millions of people around the world, and half a million every year in Britain alone. It is entirely preventable, and easily curable if caught early.”

Please see our Carpal Tunnel FAQ for more facts and details

Where can I find more Information on RSI?

This tutorial was written with the intent of providing a basic overview of what RSI is, how it is different from Carpal Tunnel, and how the SmartNav can help. There is a myriad of different RSI/Carpal Tunnel resources on the internet, here are a few I found helpful while compiling this document: - This is a RSI specific site run by KeyTools, a SmartNav reseller, check it out today! - “PERSI is your personal trainer…reminding you to take regular breaks and leading you through your PRSI break exercises. Whenever PERSI's message appears, you’ll know it’s breaktime!” - This site has a wide variety of articles relating to typing injuries and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Strain Injuries. This is a very content oriented site, and is worth a look.

RSI International Awareness Day - Information on the International RSI Awareness Day - An article published in the UK “RSI checklist will spot jobs at risk: one in fifty workers have RSI” - They produce several treatment guides and books on a variety of RSI topics.

AMAZON : It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! - This book “It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals” was recommended by a SmartNav user and is a good read for any computer professional.

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