Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) occurs when muscles, tendons or nerves are aggravated by repeated movements of the body, particularly when awkward postures are maintained for long periods of time. RSI can affect the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck and back. RSI is a potentially debilitating condition and can limit your day-to-day functionality.
Ergonomics is the study of efficient working environments and aims to eliminate the causes of RSI.
For those of us working in front of a computer, correct posture is important for leading a pain-free life:
If, like me, you spend hours at a time looking at manuscripts in the archives, you may have experienced RSI.
To avoid RSI, archival researchers should think carefully about their posture when examining manuscripts.
I can offer the following tips:
1. Buy a laptop stand, separate keyboard and mouse.
2. Where possible, position your laptop, stand, keyboard, mouse and manuscript directly in front of you:
3. Adjust your laptop’s font size, to allow for strain-free visibility.
4. Try and ensure your chair in the archive is lower-back supportive and adjustable. This is sometimes easier said than done! Major research libraries (such as the Bodleian Library, Oxford) now hold some back-supportive adjustable chairs.
5. Get up every 30 minutes and move for a couple of seconds. Movement is vital for getting blood circulation through the muscles. Quick, frequent stretches can also alleviate physical stress:
Image from http://www.shelterpub.com/fitness-guides/
Getting up every 30 minutes can be a challenging task in the archive, especially if you are on a tight schedule. However, frequent small movements can lead to a RSI-free life and will help you to physically sustain your career as an archival researcher!