Info Repetitive Strain Injury

Discussion in 'Hand Care' started by shoeman6, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. shoeman6

    shoeman6 Essence of Life Staff Member Retired Moderator

    Credits: Eburt

    Please, if you don’t read anything else, at least look at the prevention tips. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but that should at least get you somewhere.


    For those who don’t recognize me… well, that’s because I don’t post very often (read: not one post on UPSBv4… until now). So what do I think is so important that it deserves my attention tonight? Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs), also known as Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). I’m sure that many of you have heard of these, and probably many have not as well. I only recently learned much about them, through a training course provided by my employer. Major employers spend tens of thousands of dollars every year to educate their employees as to how to avoid RSIs. The reason is simple. The alternative is to pay out millions in compensation benefits and lost productivity. So don’t you think it might be worth caring about as well?

    I certainly do. And I care enough to share some of this information with all of you, because it is VERY applicable to pen spinning. I hope you’ll take the time to read this over, and work to implement some of my suggestions. I promise it will only take a fraction of the time it took me to write it. If not tonight, please come back tomorrow or the next day. Give it a read. Stay healthy. And feel free to share your experiences below.

    What is an RSI/MSD?

    RSIs (which I will use interchangeably with MSDs) are exactly what they sound like. They are injuries which result from repetitive motions. The more intense the motions and the longer they are performed, the more severe the potential consequences. Pen spinning is a classical example of an activity that is both repetitive and puts significant strain on the muscles and tendons in your hands. It DEFINITELY poses risks to your long-term health. I can promise that, as I suffer from a mild MSD. I’ll discuss my own experiences more in depth later on. First, let’s look at some of the potential consequences:

    • Discomfort and tenderness
    • Aches and pains
    • Decreased mobility of affected areas
    • Stiffness and/or Weakness
    • Tingling and/or numbness
    • Cramps
    • Swelling


    In more severe cases, long term consequences can occur. These include permanent damage to the hands/fingers (or other affected areas). A well known example of this type of condition is known as Carpel Tunnel. This is essentially a swelling of the tendons in your hands, resulting from overworking and rubbing against the holes in your bones that they run through. This causes them to swell and pinch the nerves, resulting in severe and debilitating pain. Long-term pen spinning is a prime example of an activity which is LIKELY to cause Carpel Tunnel or similar disorders.

    Please, don’t think this can’t happen to you. As I said, I suffer from a mild RSI, which limits my work capabilities, as well as my pen spinning (yes, I still spin). You are at risk. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your hobby. Just be smart about it. We’ll get to that in a bit.

    What are the major risk factors?

    • Repetitive work
    • Uncomfortable postures and strange body alignments
    • Sustained or excessive force
    • Carrying out a task for a long period of time
    • Lack of frequent breaks
    • Lack of stretching
    • Individual qualities, such as physical fitness (or lack thereof)

    Let’s take a closer look at those, in the context of pen spinning. Is pen spinning repetitive? Very. Especially if you’re trying to learn a new trick or practice a combo for a video/competition/showing off to your new significant other. I find that absent-minded spinning, when you’re paying attention to other things but twiddling your pen around is also very repetitive. Posture shouldn’t be a big deal for most of us, but do try to sit up straight when you spin (and the rest of the time). I’m not trying to sound like your mother here, but she’s probably right. However, when we spin we often force our fingers and wrists into very strange alignments. This can be compounded when recording, depending on the video angle. We certainly have the sustained part down (which pretty well covers the next three bullets, for those of you keeping track). What about the “excessive force” though? Typically, that is taken more to mean lifting heavy things and that sort of behavior. But we have to keep in mind that our fingers aren’t as strong as our arms and legs. The amount of force required to injure them is much less. And with heavy pens today (for example, the Dr. KT) we certainly do put a lot of pressure on our fingers. Next, how about stretching? How many of us actually stretch before we spin (kudos to you if you do… I know I don’t, or rather, didn’t)? I won’t say much about the last bullet, since it pretty much just means that some people are more at risk than others, and that some of these factors influence some more than others. However, the point about physical fitness is accurate, in a general sense. I don’t mean your hands specifically. Rather, a healthy body overall is less likely to sustain an injury from these types of activities.

    What can I do to help prevent RSIs?

    Ok, now that we’ve got the background covered we’ve come to the most important part. How do we prevent these injuries? First, a little disclaimer: I’m talking specifically with reference to pen spinning here. There are plenty of other ways to get an RSI/MSD. Please consult the references at the bottom for more information. Oh, and even if you follow all of my suggestions, you still might develop some sort of injury. I, nor UPSB as a whole, accept no personal or communal liability in such an event. Please do understand that I am simply trying to help prevent RSIs. Now, on to the specific suggestions:

    • Try to vary your tricks and combos. When trying to learn a new trick or master a combo for a video, etc. we often repeat the same motions countless times. Make sure to take frequent breaks when doing so, and occasionally change things up a bit
    • Make sure your body is comfortable. Maintain good sitting posture, and keep your arms/wrists as straight as possible. Avoid twisting them unnecessarily. This is especially applicable when making a video. Try to set up your camera in a way that captures or combo well but is comfortable for your hand and arm. If possible, avoid tricks/combos which require excessive or frequent twisting of wrists or fingers.
    • Use a smaller/lighter pen, especially when practicing. If you chose to use something heavier for your video due to preference, that’s fine (please, no arguments about this). But especially when you’re repeating things over and over, try something light like a pencil or BicSSA, or even an unmodded RSVP. This is especially true if your combo requires many changes of direction, which put heavy strain on your muscles, joints and tendons. I am personally a fan of the F*3000.
    • Take frequent breaks! Shorter, more frequent breaks are much more valuable than longer, less frequent ones. Since many of us spin while browsing the internet, take a break to load a new page, scroll down, post something, etc. If you spin with both hands (or are interested in learning) you can also switch hands frequently to mitigate your risk.
    • Stretch before, during and after spinning. This thread contains some great videos regarding stretching and other exercises, from someone likely more knowledgeable about this than I:
    • Try to stay physically fit. I know it sounds weird… why would running a mile help you spin pens, right? Research has pretty decisively shown that physical fitness in all areas of your body reduces the likelihood of an RSI in your future. Besides, you can make it fun and it will contribute to your long-term health in plenty of other ways.
    • Check out the links in the references section below for more details and suggestions.

    Please feel free to add your own suggestions, resources and comments below.

    So what’s your story, Eburt?

    I’m glad you asked! As I mentioned previously, I suffer from a mild RSI. Primarily, my right middle finger is affected, though my thumb, index finger and ring finger all also feel discomfort at times. Generally, its soreness, but can also evolve into mild aches and pains if I ignore it. I used to think it was pretty normal and nothing to worry about, until taking a training course provided by my employer.

    So how did I develop this RSI? A large part of it was pen spinning. I used to spin RSVP MXs almost exclusively. For the past few years, through college and starting my job, I’ve spun an unmodded RSVP. Even with these lighter pens, I’ve still developed issues. I can’t imagine what it would be like it I had spun something significantly heavier all that time. I believe that a major cause of my condition is the repetitiveness of the tricks and combos that I perform. Because I stopped learning new tricks and combos a long time ago, I tend to do the same things over and over. In particular, when I’m paying attention to something else and spinning idly I repeat the same basic combos almost every time. I also do a lot of typing/mousing, which I’m sure applies to many of you as well. Notably, I scroll ALOT using the mouse wheel, for which I use my middle finger (which is my primary concern). Please note that I am not an old man either. I’m only 22. This isn’t the type of thing which cares much about age, but rather how you care for your body over time.

    Since learning about these dangers, and seeing older people in my office who have regular discomfort, I’ve tried to wise up. I make sure to only spin lighter pens now (yes, I bring my favorite F*3000 to the office, and put down my writing pen to spin). I also try to stretch regularly, both when working on the computer and when doing something that allows me to spin more continuously. I have noticed improvement, but if I return to my old habits the discomfort comes back right away. RSIs are long-term things. It’s not easy to fix the complications caused by them, nor is it easy to break bad habits.

    So please, for the health of your hands, wrists and fingers, do your best to develop good habits now. I hope this article will help you do so. Please, try to be conscious of these issues. They are very real, and if you ignore them you may find yourself regretting it in a few short years.

    Thanks for reading.


  2. XenXor

    XenXor New Member

    Thanks Doc. (LoL i got scared a bit.)
  3. Quake

    Quake Your Favorite Oldie

    Thanks shoe. much appreciated info.~
  4. Zen

    Zen PS-Addict

    Credits to Eburt, for the info.
    Thanks for re posting this again shoeman6
  5. Manman

    Manman Member

    Nice post mate, thanks for the re-post.
  6. Tang

    Tang Member

    I got scared a lil bit. But thx for the precautionary measures lol
  7. Soren

    Soren Old-Timer

    "Consult a physician"


    Are you living in the 16th century mate
  8. SereneSage

    SereneSage New Member

    I'll do everything you say, (your channel got me to start penspinning) You're like my hero! cheers for the post
  9. OPdelivers

    OPdelivers Old-Timer

    Bump. This is incredibly informative and needs more views.
    shawkie likes this.
  10. shawkie

    shawkie Old-Timer

    Does anyone have any of these pains to talk about it? And any longtime spinners who prevented it?
  11. Shiro

    Shiro Old-Timer

    I guess I have this in my right ring finger... Well I kinda prevented the pain from acting up by switching from a heavy mod to a lighter mod after spinning for a long time, like... 20-30min or so?
  12. Zen

    Zen PS-Addict

    That's not really repetitive strain injury, it more of just the mod being heavy for you. 20 minutes is not that long, your fingers are not used to the weight. The injury mentioned above is more serious. I don't think pen spinners get it because they don't really put unbearable strain on their hands, unless they spin a 30 pound dumbbell all day.

    "Too much of a good thing, is too much of a good thing," -Zen
  13. Shiro

    Shiro Old-Timer

    hmmm... maybe the mod is too heavy for me, but i'm kinda used to the weight after spinning it for like 6 months? and for a whole day and the next morning my ring finger had a slight ache, not very painful
  14. DoeLarh

    DoeLarh Disappointment

    My wrist ache..guess to much wrist movement tricks is bad even though it is fun
  15. Nickle

    Nickle Old-Timer

    guess so, but could an overuse of wrist twist tricks result in RSI?

    Wouldn't an unmodded RSVP's unbalance make you put more strain on fingers? I imagine unbalanced mods requiring more force to spin, at least half of the time when the heavier side pushes

    Isn't stretching putting alot of strain on your fingers? Isn't that what we're trying to avoid?
  16. DoeLarh

    DoeLarh Disappointment

    @Nickle swivel and the variations
  17. nhk_hens

    nhk_hens Old-Timer

    stretching helps to increase range of motion and bring blood to whatever joint/muscle group to decrease harm when your muscles and joints access those ranges of movement. it also in the case of hands can help build muscle. however in the case of chronic pain, you have to first rest it and then slowly implement stretching etc.
  18. Spinner.HoW*

    Spinner.HoW* Old-Timer

    may I take a copy of this then I'll post on my page. This is helpful and must read. don't worry I'll credit.

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