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Preventing and relieving RSI: exercises and tips

Reading time 8 minutes
March 18, 2024

Radio Taisô! Ever heard of it?

No ? You should!

This is the morning routine for Japanese employees.

With an overly sedentary and predominantly elderly society, the Japanese have understood the importance of physical activity.

Faced with the scourge of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), there is hope.

If you want to prevent or alleviate aches and pains: adopt this idea!

Here are a few tips and exercises to help you do just that.

Come on, warm up and let's go for a good 5/6 minutes.

The right reflexes

No surprises!

After a few hours spent working in front of your screen or sitting at your desk, you feel aches and pains.

These tensions, often muscular, are the result of poor posture or overly static work. Concentrating on the job in hand, forgetting the right posture, our bad habits quickly return.

This can quickly lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

Here is the number one scourge of work:

(If you haven't yet read our full article on MSDs, click HERE)

Here are 5 common-sense tips to get you started:

Tip1: Listen to your body!

As soon as you feel pain, take a break and stand up.

Change your position! If you're sitting down, stand up and vice versa.

It's time for a coffee break, or a chat with your colleagues about a work-related subject, or to take care of some photocopying...
There are a few simple tips to follow if you want to avoid the MSD trap.

2. The right position: there isn't one.

Having your back straight and the screen at eye level... we've all heard that. There are many recommended "positions".

What's the right position? The one where you feel comfortable.

But in reality, no static position is good. The ideal is never to stay in one posture for too long. So, back to tip number 1!

3. Sleep well.

Nothing can be done without good recovery. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but a minimum of 6 hours is an average. `

If you're sleep-deprived, your body is fragile and vulnerable. Don't overlook sleep disorders. They are responsible for other illnesses.

4. Take active breaks

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle at all costs. We spend almost 08h/day in a seated position.

Think about taking active breaks: get up and go for a walk, a brisk run, go up and down stairs or move your desk, work standing up, etc.

Organize your time:

- Get up at least once an hour.

- Go for a 15-minute walk at lunchtime and a 15-minute walk in the late afternoon.

- 30 min of sports activity at lunchtime, etc.

Be in motion more often than you are seated or static.

5. Awaken muscles before working

To each his own pace and level of fitness! Take your time.

A few exercises and stretches when you wake up or arrive at work are more than beneficial for your physical condition.

In short, walk, run and get moving before going to work. Warm up your muscles and get off to a good start.

Exercises for prevention and relief

Throughout the day, you can prepare your body and give it the means to avoid RSI.

1. Before work :

1st physical activity: stretch to warm up muscles and joints. Don't hesitate to use the muscles that are important for your work.

- Joint warm-up: Rotate shoulders, wrists, ankles and hips.

- Stretching: do trunk rotations and side bends

- Muscular activation: Squats, push-ups or sheathing exercises will strengthen your abdominal, back and buttock muscles.

- Possible sport: brisk walking or jogging can help prepare your muscles and joints for the activities ahead.

2. During work  

Take breaks and get up regularly. This is a good time to do some activities (wrist stretches, neck and shoulder rotations).

- Neck stretch : Gently tilt your head towards your right shoulder, holding for 15 seconds, then do the same on the other side.

- Wrist stretch: Extend your right arm out in front of you, palm down, and use your left hand to gently pull your fingers upwards. Hold for 15 seconds, then do the same on the other side.

- Back stretch: Sit on the edge of your chair, clasping your hands behind your head. Slowly lean back. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly return to the seated position.

3. After work:

After a hard day's work, it's a good idea to do some stretching and relaxation exercises to help you unwind from the day's exertions.

Your choice of stretching, yoga or tai chi chuan will help. Meditation is also a useful option for a relaxing end to your day.

Further information  

Some targeted exercises for the most common MSDs:

- Cervical spine

Beware of leaning back too far with your head forward - the famous turtle posture! If you're a dentist or bent over your computer all day, this concerns you.

Preventive exercise: sit up every hour. Squeeze your shoulder blades together for 10 seconds.

In case of pain: lie on your back. Roll a towel under your neck for 20 minutes.

- The elbow

Who's affected? Construction or assembly-line workers, or IT specialists who spend long hours wielding a computer mouse.

Prevention exercise :

Stand up.

Raise your left arm horizontally in front of you, palm up, then place your right hand under your left elbow. Bend your elbow and pass your left hand through the circle formed by your right arm. Repeat several times.

Then do it on the other side.

In case of pain: Sit down. Rest your right forearm on something. Your wrist should be in the air and your palm facing the ground.

Take a weight in your right hand and with your wrist raised, lower the weight.

Pull your arm up with your left arm. Repeat several times.

If the movement is painful, stop immediately.

- Lower back

Two origins:

A sedentary lifestyle: this includes people who sit for hours in front of a desk

Intense effort or movement: this applies to all heavy-duty workers, such as plumbers, movers and construction workers.

Preventive exercise: sit on a chair. Stand up straight. Place your right hand on your left knee. With your left hand, reach for the back of the chair to twist your torso without moving your knees.

Then do it several times. Then switch sides.

For pain: Place a rolled-up towel in the small of your lower back to relieve tension.

- The hand

Who's concerned? IT professions or supermarket cashiers.

Preventive exercise: Extend your right arm horizontally, palm open towards the sky. Press the fingers of your right hand with your left hand.

Do this several times, then switch hands.

In case of pain: Sit with your back straight. Place your palms together in prayer, with your elbows level with your chest. Then rotate the fingers of your right hand on the inside of your left wrist. Apply pressure with your right hand. Do this several times. Then switch hands.

Sport: an asset against RSI

In principle, all sports are excellent for combating RSI.

But here are 4 that we particularly recommend:

Swimming: an excellent sport for strengthening back, shoulder and arm muscles. Gives joints greater strength.

Yoga: Yoga combines postures, stretching and breathing techniques to strengthen muscles and maintain suppleness and flexibility. It also promotes relaxation.

Pilates: Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles. The spine is more stable and your posture stronger.

Walking: Walking is an effective physical activity for improving blood circulation and relieving muscular tension. It's also a relaxing form of meditation.

You now have a few tools to support your prevention approach.

Remember to create your own daily routine, from the moment you wake up in the morning.

Like the Japanese, start your day with some gymnastics to prepare you for exertion.

Please note that these exercises are not intended to treat musculoskeletal disorders.

Consultation of a specialist remains necessary in the event of MSD.

Above all, don't force your movements, and don't hesitate to call on a sports coach to accompany you if you want to do a sport on the side.

We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

By Edmond Kean

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