Hyderabad: At first, a dull pain and numbness in wrists, neck and the upper back did not really worry Prasad Bellary, a software professional working from home at Miyapur since the Covid pandemic.
He brushed off the pain and continued to hack away on his keyboard and attend virtual team meetings for long hours from home. A few days later, however, the IT professional, whose US-based company has already declared work from home for its employees till next June, realised that something was amiss.
“After a day full of presentations on Zoom and writing software on my laptop, which lasted for more than 14 hours, I was struggling to get up from bed the next day. I kept feeling a constant jolt of pain in my wrists, neck and back,” he says. A visit to a doctor and a few scans later, the techie realised that he was dealing with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a modern-day medical condition that countless number of software professionals in the city’s IT hub face and often struggle to manage.
Traditionally, the IT workforce is a high-risk group and suffers from RSIs. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse, as they find themselves working from home for unregulated long hours at a stretch. In the last few months, senior orthopaedic specialists here have reported a 300 per cent to 500 per cent increase in the number of such instances. Poor ergonomics at home, constant pressure on tendons, fingers, arms and shoulders through repetitive motions and ramping up of the work hours is blamed for the spurt in RSI cases.
“The challenge with RSI is that it does not have a silver bullet. At the same time, we can’t ask software professionals to leave their jobs. That’s why I keep telling them not to sit for more than 30 minutes at one place, improve ergonomics at home and do exercises frequently,” says Dr K Raghuveer Reddy, senior orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist, Sai Institute of Sports Injury and Arthroscopy (SISA).
The National Health Scheme (NHS), UK, describes Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) as ‘pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. RSIs are work-related upper limb disorders or non-specific upper limb pain. The condition mostly affects forearms, elbows, wrists and hands, neck and even shoulders’.
To understand, manage and even to overcome the constant pain, orthopaedic surgeons urge individuals to understand multiple factors that impact RSIs.
“You really need to address the RSIs at multiple levels. Individuals need to focus on improving their micro-nutrient levels including Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin and Iron. They need to address hormonal imbalances and perennial shortage of proteins in the diet. Any physical activity along with focus on diet and micronutrients will do wonders,” says Dr Mahesh Lakkireddy, Associate Professor, Orthopaedics, NIMS.
What should IT professional with severe RSI do?
“I first advise them to immediately take a step back and reduce the work stress. A majority of cases we witness are due to overuse of tendons, muscles and joints. Management through physiotherapy, icing and staying active are the best way out, instead of taking steroid injections for pain relief. There is of course need to take up physical exercise like Yoga, walking etc for management of the pain,” says Dr Aachi Mithin, senior orthopaedic surgeon, Apollo Hospitals.
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