Harvard RSI Action
(click to go to home page)
spacer
spacer
Spreading the word and starting support groups
spacer
This page was originally designed for Harvard students, but around 90% of the hits come from outside Harvard. Our group has been fairly effective at spreading the word about RSI here at Harvard, although more so in some parts than others. In this section is propaganda material we've developed which we encourage you to use (for non-commercial purposes) to spread the word in your own area. Also included are suggestions for starting a support group.
  • RSI Poster Text
  • Tips for publications
  • Email text
  • About the mousepad
  • Starting support groups
  • RSI Poster Text

    Here is the text for a poster we have used.

    IF YOUR HANDS HURT
    OR TINGLE OR GO NUMB
    OR YOU DROP THINGS
    STOP TYPING
    SEE A DOCTOR
    STRETCH AND TAKE REST BREAKS
    SEE http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu
    CALL HARVARD RSI ACTION ###-####

    Tips for publications

    Here is a set of RSI prevention tips we have developed for publication. We have found that it's hard to stop people from hurting themselves or to pay serious attention to RSI until they have symptoms. Therefore, our goal has been to remind people often about RSI. Hopefully, soon after they get symptoms, they will see a reminder, and will take action. Putting tips like these into a school newspaper, bulletin, or message of the day on a computer system is a good way to remind people about RSI. The tips consist of one longish overview paragraph, followed by small tips meant to stand on their own.

    Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and others, are an increasing problem. These injuries are potentially very painful and disabling. They are typically caused by too much typing, writing, or mousing with poor ergonomics and not enough breaks.

    The symptoms of RSI include pain, soreness, numbness or tingling in the hands, wrists or forearms, or clumsiness. If you have any of these symptoms, you should take them seriously. See a doctor. The Harvard RSI Action web page, http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu, contains information about prevention and treatment of RSIs, and pointers to other resources.

    There are many easy things you can do to prevent RSIs. These include taking breaks: 1 or 2 minutes for every 10 or 15 minutes of typing. Type properly: use one hand to hit control or shift and the other to hit a letter key, rather than using one hand in a contorted position to hit both. Don't rest your wrists on a wrist rest, arm rest or desk while typing; put your wrists in your lap or get up during breaks. Set up your computer properly, including getting your keyboard to the right height: your elbows should be at about a 90 degree angle, or a little more open. The web page has more typing ideas, illustrations for stretches to do during your breaks, diagrams on how to set up your computer, and more; check it out. Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) are a continuing problem. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: take 1 or 2 minute typing breaks every 10 or 15 minutes. Stretch and get up from your chair occasionally. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: make sure your computer is set up right: your keyboard should be low enough that your elbows are at about a 90 degree angle, or a little more open. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: don't rest on a wrist rest, arm rests or the table while typing. Your hands and arms should move freely while you type, so that your arms do the main work, and you don't have to bend your wrists in awkward positions. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: if your hands, forearms, or wrists are painful, sore, numb, or tingling, you have thesymptoms of RSI. See your doctor. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more information.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: keep your hands and forearms warm while typing. Warm up your room, wear a sweater. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: don't pound your keys when you type. Don't keep your pinky or thumb up high while typing. Keep your wrists mostly straight, and move your arms rather than bending your wrists. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: keep your hands and forearms warm while typing. Warm up your room, wear a sweater. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) prevention tip: don't pound your keys when you type. Don't keep your pinky or thumb up high while typing. Keep your wrists mostly straight, and move your arms rather than bending your wrists. Check out http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu for more prevention tips.

    Email text

    Here is the text of email messages we have sent out. When we send RSI announcements, such as about prevention talks, we send this message along with it at the end. Or we send out the message directly to high risk populations, such as computer science undergraduates. It's a good way to get the message to people. You can copy and paste it into your favorite mailer, nearly verbatim, except you'll probably want to change the last paragraph, and remove the reference to Environmental Health and Safety.

    What is RSI
    RSI stands for Repetitive Strain Injury. It's a catch all phrase, covering many symptoms, including tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, etc. Basically, if your hands or wrists hurt, lose feeling, tingle, burn, ache, or feel stiff, that's probably RSI.

    How bad is RSI
    RSI is potentially disabling. It can make typing, writing, eating, and even holding hands painful. It can last for many years, and you can get it in just a week, or even less.

    How do you get RSI
    The most common way to get RSI is too much typing with bad ergonomics. Writing or other repetitive activities can also cause RSI. For some people, RSI comes on suddenly. For others, it comes on gradually.

    How do I prevent RSI
    Take frequent rest breaks from typing, perhaps 1 or 2 minutes every 10 or 15 minutes. Do this even if you have something important due: when you are working long hours, it's more important than ever to rest periodically.

    Type properly: don't rest your wrists while typing, but keep them floating above the keyboard. Don't rest your hand on a wrist rest: use it as a reminder to keep your hands up. Don't contort your hands to type key combinations like control, shift, or alt: instead, use the index finger of the opposite hand to type combinations. Don't rest your arms on arm rests while typing.

    Set up your workstation properly (see the web page for an illustration). Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle, or slightly more open. Your monitor should be at about eye level.

    Stretch and exercise your hands, wrists, arms and upper back. Good stretches include the prayer stretch (illustrated on the web page) and shaking your arms gently. But if you have any signs of RSI, don't exercise: this could make it worse. Go see a doctor.

    What if I start to get RSI
    If you feel signs of RSI: pain, numbness, or tingling, go see a doctor. If these symptoms come occasionally and go away quickly when you stop typing, try taking more breaks and improving your work station setup. You can get a free work station evaluation from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, 495-2060. Occasional pain could indicate a cumulative buildup of damage, and you should type in such a way you never have symptoms.

    If your symptoms are more serious or persist, go back to your doctor. They may tell you to stop typing or writing. Listen to them, even though you probably have something important due (if you didn't, you probably wouldn't be working hard enough to get problems). If you don't listen, you could seriously and permanently injure yourself. Ask your teachers for extensions, or your supervisors for accommodations. Bring a note from your doctor.

    Harvard RSI Action
    Harvard RSI Action is a GSAS student group for graduate students in all Harvard schools, and for undergraduates too. Our goals are RSI prevention, advocacy, and support. See our web page http://www.rsi.deas.Harvard.edu. Our web page has more prevention information, lists of other resources at Harvard, and tips for people with RSI.

    About the mousepad

    So far, the most effective means we have found for spreading the word about RSI is a mousepad placed in the public computer rooms. This mousepad contains information about what RSI is and basic prevention tips, as well as where to go for more information. The mousepads cost about $4 each to produce. (The mousepads are Harvard specific, so those outside Harvard probably wouldn't want to purchase them. Those inside Harvard can talk to Lenny Solomon, solomon@huarp.harvard.edu, for more information about samples or ordering. The mouse pad increased hits on our web site from within Harvard from about one per day to about 2 per day: they are the single most effective means we have had for getting information out. Theft has not been a problem, especially since people can just go to the website for more information (and it's hard to get people to care enought to read them, never mind steal them...)

    Starting support groups

    Support groups are useful for a number of reasons, and we highly recommend that you start one if there isn't one already in your area. Two places to check for support groups are http://www.engr.unl.edu/eeshop/supprsi.html a list maintained by Paul Marxhausen and ARMS -- The Association for Repetitive Motion Syndromes.
    (ARMS) P.O. Box 514
    Santa Rosa, CA
    95402-0514 707/571-0397 (please call between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. only, Pacific Standard Time)

    If there is not already a support group in your area, it's easy to start one. The way our group was founded was with help from the physical therapy department at Harvard University Health Services. Since most people with serious cases of RSI get physical therapy, by putting a poster in physical therapy and by notifying the physical therapist (who then told patients about us), we were able to find most of our original members. Other useful places include disability services, human resources, mental health services (since many RSI sufferers become depressed) and relevant doctors. You will need to pick a contact person to maintain a list of people in the group. Our online mailing list has been incredibly useful for organizing meetings.

    Sending out propaganda, like that in the previous subsection, to your local newspaper (especially if you are starting a group in a corporate or educational institution, where there is some regular newsletter) will also help: you will spread prevention information while gainingmembers.

    You should also contact the nearest support group if it is anywhere close to you. They may have members who have been commuting from your area. Just getting a few people from your area who can form the core of a support group is helpful. Then, you can work together to grow (Some Harvard RSI Action members were also members of a Boston area group)

    spacer
    spacer
    spacer spacer spacer spacer