Keeping safe at work is more paramount than ever before, but for once we aren’t focusing on COVID-19. A common issue with many physical jobs is the potential to suffer from RSI (repetitive strain industry) and window cleaning is no exception.
Window cleaner’s shoulder is a common term amongst this trade, referring to the aching pains and tension in the upper body from using water-fed poles, along with builder’s back and tennis elbow.
Over time these can lead to long term suffering from symptoms including joint pain mostly in the elbows and wrists. This can also lead to swelling, neck and back tightness, numbness in the fingertips and cramps. As window cleaning contains a lot of repetitive movement and often the same activity over a long period without frequent rest, it’s always best to be aware of the potential risks and how you can avoid them in your occupation.
A few ideas to reduce your risk of getting RSI are as follows:
Change it up
We all have a dominant arm, which we naturally prefer to use. However, this can cause a strain to one side of the body more than the other. Every so often it’s recommended to alternate arms to avoid overworking one side more than the other, giving your dominant arm a well-deserved break.
Take a break
Although it seems obvious, it’s frequently overlooked how much it can benefit your body just having regular intervals to rest. It’s better to take smaller, more frequent breaks, rather than one long lunch break with no intervals during your working hours.
Stretch it out
One of the best ways to relieve any aches and pains is stretching. These allow the muscles to relax and unwind, even if it is just a few wrist-rolls every so often. It’s recommended to stretch before and after any physical activity to ensure you’re limbered up and less likely to harm yourself during work.
With most common health-related issues, prevention is always better than cure! However, RSI can creep up on you when you least expect it, so if you have started to feel the twinge, here are a few ideas.
Consult your doctor
It’s always best to seek professional help, especially once the pain becomes so detrimental it is affecting your everyday life. Your GP will be able to recommend the best route for recovery and potentially prescribe medication to relieve any immediate pain.
Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. As soon as possible after RSI flares up, you can relieve pain by following the RICE protocol. Taking a break to avoid further damage and applying a cold compress to reduce any potential swelling will allow the body to recover. Applying an ice pack for 20-30 minutes, 3 or more times a day can dramatically speed up the recovery process. This coincides with compressing the hurt area to reduce any pain and ensuring the sore area is elevated whilst resting to avoid further swelling.
Most people with RSI recover in 3-6 months if it is spotted early, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry and practice a safer work environment for everyone.