Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are caused by daily micro-trauma to the body’s tissues. Our bodies are able to heal normal wear-and-tear damage of daily activities when we rest. With repetitive or overuse injuries, the body is unable to heal the amount of damage done in a timely manner. The damage gradually accumulates until pain and inflammation are noticed.
60% of all occupational illnesses are repetitive strain injuries (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
1 of every 10 adults will experience neck, arm or hand pain that will interfere with their daily activities.
As technology use becomes more universal across all age groups, we are finding that young adults and children are also at risk of developing repetitive strain injuries. In a series of international studies, up to 60% of students across the globe reported eye strain, neck & shoulder pain, wrist and back discomfort, headaches and fatigue. Symptoms were reported in children as young as in 4th grade.
Fortunately, the young tend to heal more quickly than adults; however, it is important to be aware of the risk factors to help keep the next generation pain-free.
Increased Sedentary Activity & Increased Computer Use
70-80% of school-aged children now use computers at home or at school. It is estimated that children are spending 2-3 hours daily on the computer.
Children report that only 1/3 of the time they spend on computers is for schoolwork; 2/3 of the time spent on computers is for leisure activity including chat rooms, e-mail, and computer games.
63% of 9-17 year olds would rather surf the internet than watch television.
The more the child is enjoying the activity, the better chance that the child will ignore warning pain signals.
Children may spend their leisure time in other sedentary activities that use similar muscle movements as when they are using computers – for example, playing video games, playing musical instruments, or watching television.
Challenging Ergonomic Situations and Lack of Postural Training
Posture patterns begin developing at age 7.
Children are using computers at very young ages and are not being formally taught proper positioning and computing techniques.
Repetitive strain injuries in children are highly correlated with the repetitive, awkward and prolonged postures they are using when they are working on computers or laptops.
Most computer stations are designed for adults or lack the adjustability needed for children who display a wide range of body sizes and body growth rates.
The portability of technology (e.g. laptop computers, video game players) allow for use in non-traditional settings and with non-traditional postures that can increase the risk of injury.
Children have a flexibility that enables them to use technology in more non-traditional postures than adults.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series.
Part 2 will provide ergonomic tips for preventing pain in children.
For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit