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The creation and installation of graphics involves a lot of tedious and repetitive tasks, whether it is drawing, painting, or computer design work. Repetitive stress/strain injuries (RSIs) can affect almost every extremity on the body but most involve the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck. These injuries usually involve the inflammation of the tendons in the joint areas and carpal tunnel nerve in the wrist, caused by repetitive use, working for extended periods without rest, and poor posture habits.
Whether your working the mouse on your computer, pulling squeegees while screen printing, hand painting a group of signs, or working an airbrush for extended periods of time, your repeatedly working the same group of muscles and tendons which will lead to localized fatigue. One of the body’s defense mechanisms is to pump more fluid into the area, which results in a swelling or inflammation of the surrounding tissue. In most cases the resulting inflammation causes pain in the joints. If this continues over an extended period of time, it can cause tissue damage that in some cases is irreversible. Looking at a computer monitor that is positioned poorly, or painting a line of text that is higher than eye level for extended periods of time can cause the same localized fatigue in the neck, just as poor posture while sitting for extended periods can cause lower back injuries. Direct pressure on soft tissue for extended periods of time can also cause tissue damage. The bone will compress the tissue and create a sore from the inside out.
What’s the answer to all this…take frequent breaks! Put the brush down and stretch those fingers, get up from the computer and walk around the room for a couple of minutes. Make sure your chair, easel, workbench, or computer are at the write height and try to maintain good posture while your working. Try to hold your tools in different positions. This might be difficult at first but once you get used to performing the same task using different positions, your body will appreciate the break. Simple things like a foot rest that allows you to prop your feet up off the ground or and adjustable easel that would let you bring your work down to eye level can greatly enhance a comfortable working environment.
Another factor that can eliminate strain and facilitate a more enjoyable and safe working environment is lighting. Improper lighting can lead to serious eyestrain. Too dark, your eyes are straining to see what you’re working on, too bright and your eyes are fighting the glare. If you find yourself getting headaches after short periods of work than change the lighting and see what happens if the headaches continue than maybe you need to see the eye doctor for a vision check-up.
If there is pain in those joints that doesn’t seem to go away with adequate rest then don’t grin and bare it…get to the doctor and find out what’s up. It might be a simple fix or in some cases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need surgery to fix the problem. If your an employer, you really need to make sure your employees are aware of these things and you have the right equipment in place to prevent these kinds of injuries.
Another fun filled and exciting summer is in the history books, at least in my part of the world, and its time to check out your heating devices. Clean off the dust, remove any hazardous material that has accumulated around or on top of them, and make sure their up to par for their winter use. Remember, knowledge is power, whether you us it wisely is your choice. Until next time, work smart, be safe, and enjoy the fruits of your labor…Robin
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