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Take measures to prevent repetitive strain injuries

It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of the MIT community has some form of repetitive strain injury (RSI). But there are ways to prevent it.

Many of us use computers every day, often for hours at a time. This prolonged use can cause soreness and pain in muscles, tendons and joints. While symptoms may be mild at first, repetitive strain can lead to injuries to the hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, back and neck.

How many computer users are affected by repetitive strain injuries (RSIs)? At MIT, it's estimated that at least 10 percent of the community has some form of RSI. The good news is that there are preventive measures you can take to keep RSIs at arm's length. Several MIT departments, including IS&T, the Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) Office, MIT Medical, and Disability Services provide RSI-related resources to community members.

Here's a round-up of RSI resources at MIT that focus on prevention. Do yourself a favor and check them out before those twinges turn into trouble.

Stretch Break Pro
Stretch Break Pro is an ergonomic stretching and typing break program from Para Technologies. At timed intervals, it steps you through stretches using animated figures and provides reminders (e.g., "Keep your wrists comfortably straight"). You can set the number of minutes between breaks as well as the number of stretches per break.

The company recently released Stretch Break 6.6 for Windows, updated to run on Windows 7 and 8 machines. It includes six new stretches and a healthy computing module with guidelines for setting up an ergonomically correct workstation. Stretch Break 6.1.2 for Mac has been updated to run on OS X 10.8.

You can download these versions via the IS&T Software Grid. Instructions on how to install and set up Stretch Break Pro for Macintosh and Windows are available in the Knowledge Base. For assistance installing or using Stretch Break, contact the IS&T Help Desk at 617.253.1101 or You can also submit a request online.

Online Guides and a Web-Based Assessment Course
The IS&T Assistive Technology Information Center (ATIC) website includes an RSI Prevention tab, with links ranging from RSI: What you absolutely need to know, to Laptop Ergonomics, to RSI Tools.

EHS's website on ergonomics links to a web-based computer ergonomics course (certificates required) that can help you evaluate and improve the set-up of your workstation.

The EHS website also includes pointers to several other resources. ErgoAnswers, for example, provides ergonomic tips for different parts of the body, as well techniques for using keyboards and laptops.

Sometimes, having an expert assess your work environment can be helpful. EHS provides this service at no cost. To make an appointment for an ergonomic evaluation, call 617.452.3477 or send email to

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