Anything continually used eventually breaks down, including your body. RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) happens when a sustained motion of any part of your body damages nerves, muscles or tendons and often develops into a chronic disorder.
While this may sound bleak employment-wise, there definitely are jobs for RSI sufferers that won't aggravate your condition. Here are some to check out, as well as some to avoid.
WORST WORK CONDITIONS FOR RSI SUFFERERS
Today's feverishly paced work environments and disregard for human comfort can intensify RSI. To manage your pain, be wary of these risky work conditions:
Jobs with Heavy Computer Usage
Repetitive strain injuries are one of the main health risks for computer users. [source] Non-ergonomic keyboards, which unnaturally bend the wrist up or down, and a seat positioned too high or too low relative to the desk, can compound your injury.
A high-pressure office that involves intense typing can cause your muscles to become more inflamed. The emotional stress from this environment can also affect RSI. Damage may happen faster than the muscles can repair themselves.
Jobs That Cause Hand-Arm Vibration
Any job that involves vibration from power tools or machinery is off-limits for repetitive stress injury sufferers. Vibrations are amplified by concrete and metal floors, which will intensify your pain. Besides hand-arm vibration, you also have to contend with total body vibration, which catapults shock waves through your entire body.
Jobs in Cold Climates
You'll want to avoid jobs located in a cold workspace or outside in a cold climate. Cold muscles and tendons put you at greater risk of aggravating your injuries, especially if you tend to have cold hands, to begin with.
Jobs Where You Have to Do the Same Thing Without Rest
When you have to repeat the same task over and over and over without rest, your RSI will go through the roof. Moreover, the exhaustion from relentless motion will compound your pain.
Jobs Where You Need to Use Unnatural Hand Motions or Positions
A repetitive stress injury can intensify when you have to contort your hands in directions they're not meant to go, with pressure they're not meant to bear. Some of these include:
- Fast, repeated motions of the hand and wrist
- Tasks done with the hand in an unnatural position
- Jobs requiring a strong grip
- Jobs needing high hand, wrist, and finger pressure
- Extended periods of pressure on your palm
- Repetitive twisting motions
- Tools that don't properly fit your hand or need brute force to operate
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BEST WORK CONDITIONS FOR RSI SUFFERERS
A good work environment is one where your condition is taken seriously and where your employer strives to make you as comfortable as possible:
Companies Furnished with Ergonomic Equipment
One of the best ways to assist an RSI sufferer on the job is to create an ergonomic workplace. In this setting, an employer furnishes equipment, such as ergonomic keyboards, a computer monitor positioned at or below eye level, a vertical mouse that allows you to point your thumb upward, a headset, and a chair with lumbar support.
An Employer That Permits Extended Rest Breaks
People with RSI work best when they can take regular, decent-length breaks. A five or 10-minute rest every hour can make a world of difference when you need to heal, or at least not worsen your condition.
An Employer Who Genuinely Understands the Severity of Your Pain
It's very important for someone with repetitive stress injury to have a patient boss. Sometimes people who are not in pain expect people who are in pain to still give 100 percent. A sympathetic boss knows you're still a competent employee if you work slowly, and will give you more time to complete assignments. Office mates will also understand you're not being given special privileges but merely being treated compassionately.
Companies That Make Modifications to the Office
While not everything that twists and turns in an office can be replaced, the few things that can will make a big difference. Doorknobs that twist can be swapped out for levers. Two-handle bathroom and kitchen faucets can be outfitted with single-handle hardware. Paper towel dispensers that need to be cranked can be replaced with touchless dispensers. These are simple changes, and they're inexpensive, too.
TIPS TO HELP RSI SUFFERERS GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY
It's hard plowing through the workday when you're in pain. Here are some suggestions to help the time pass more easily:
WORST JOBS FOR RSI SUFFERERS
These are jobs that are especially hard on RSI sufferers. In fact, they're likely to make your RSI even more severe:
- Mechanic – This job is the perfect storm of tasks that can worsen repetitive stress injuries. Using tools such as ratchets and screwdrivers can twist your hands into unnatural positions. They also require pressure to use. If you're working under the car, you'll have to crane your arm and hand upwards at an unnatural angle. Even laboring under the hood is like trying to work in a sardine can.
- Factory worker – Assembly line work is extremely harmful to someone with RSI. As an assembly line worker, you're stuck in the same position, repeating the same motions over and over. You may spend all day adding a specific part to a circuit board or assembling cell phones or doing garment piecework at breakneck speed. These repetitive motions, and the accompanying stress of quickly cranking out products, will keep you in pain.
- Musician – An RSI can hamper your ability to play an instrument adeptly or painlessly. Playing drums – particularly if you do flamboyant spinning – involves force, vibration, and grasping sticks at constantly shifting angles.
Playing guitar, with its own awkward hand positions and tight grip, is off-limits for RSI sufferers, as well. (Famous musicians who've struggled with carpal tunnel syndrome include Willie Nelson, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood).
- Carpenter – Carpenters use instruments such as hammers, drills, and nail guns. Using these tools can erupt into agonizing jolts and vibrations that will only aggravate repetitive stress injury.
- Flight attendant – This may seem like an unlikely profession for RSI, but it does affect service-sector jobs. Flight attendants serve passengers several times on a flight. Each time, they repeatedly press the hand brakes of their food carts. Incessant pressure is an open invitation for RSI.
BEST JOBS FOR RSI SUFFERERS
Luckily, many jobs spare your limbs and engage your intellect:
- Attorney – This is a job where you use your mind and your voice (okay, and maybe your hands once in a while to make a point). You may want to specialize in worker's compensation claims related to repetitive stress injuries. Any writing necessary can be done with speech recognition software. You simply talk and your words magically appear on the screen, which the software then converts to text. [source]
- Psychologist – Because you're in physical pain and your clients are in emotional pain, you have extra sensitivity to suffering. Your RSI can actually serve you in a profession where compassion is of the utmost importance.
- Distance learning educator – The internet offers vast possibilities for education. You can take advantage of this by providing virtual classes. All you need is a computer, a webcam, and an internet connection. Your sessions can be live or prerecorded.
There's no limit to the courses you can offer. Choose anything you're interested in and anything you enjoy. You could even give online classes about repetitive stress injuries and how to manage them.
- Tour guide – Would you love to share what you know about a city? How about sharing your commitment to animals and their preservation? Do you like art and want to help others understand it? Then you could be a tour guide, zoo guide or even gallery guide. You won't have to use your hands much for these professions. You merely need a burning passion for your subject and in-depth knowledge about it.
- Reading coach – A reading coach, or adult literacy coach, helps adults who write or read at the eighth-grade level or lower. One out of every six adults in the US – or 36 million people – can't read basic things, such as a job application, medicine label or anything on the internet. [source] In light of these statistics, you'll do a huge service to an overlooked minority. You'll be relatable, too, since you also have a disability.
- Market evaluator – A market evaluator assesses the revenue-generating potential of a particular market. They do this by determining where a client can effectively sell a product or service, what the competition is, and how much to charge. They can evaluate everything from the viability of a household appliance to the potential of opening a particular business in a specific part of town.
- Actor – If you're extroverted, talented, and love the limelight, this career could be the one for you. As someone who suffers from RSI, you understand highs and lows, and how to express them realistically. Most likely, you'll have to do very little grasping or your role may be modified so you don't have to.
Singers with RSI can also have a thriving career. Gone are the days when singers had to grasp a mic in their hands. There are now hands-free headset mics, and if you want to be more traditional, you can use a mic stand.
- Consultant – A consultant draws from their niche experience to provide expert advice to a specific group of people. This job is perfect for you if you have an extremely logical, analytical mind and superior organizational skills. There are countless types of consultants, including:
- Strategic consultants – Strategic consultants advise on high-level decisions for a company about its business strategy. Strategic consulting is one of the most prestigious segments of the consulting industry.
- Technology consultants – Technology consultants recommend software solutions that will enhance a business’ performance and keep them ahead of the competition.
- Financial consultants – Financial consultants, also known as financial analysts or financial advisors, help businesses or individuals make informed financial choices.
- Marketing consultants – Marketing consultants help companies devise and implement strategies to promote goods and services. You can either be self-employed or work for a consulting practice.
- Independent consultant – You may want to offer your own consulting services about repetitive stress injuries. As an expert in the condition, you can provide advice about coping mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can also offer guidance about techniques to ease the pain. Groups and individuals can both be clients.
- Online survey-taker – As previously mentioned, jobs with heavy computer use are a no-go for an RSI sufferer. That said, there are plenty of opportunities to make money online that don't require you to spend hours glued to the screen, and survey taking is among the best. For just a few minutes of your time, you could earn a supplemental income sharing your opinions on topics companies want to hear about.
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Although millions of Americans have RSI, that fact probably doesn't make you feel any less alone in your pain. It can be hard to see past the agony to the possibility of employment. But not only is it possible, it's completely probable to find an interesting, rewarding, and exciting job!
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What jobs for RSI sufferers would you recommend? How have you dealt with RSI in the workplace in the past? Leave your comments below!