Let’s talk about DPI | IMPAC health and safety

29 June, 2018  |  News

Discomfort, pain, and injury (DPI) while using computers is a health and safety risk for office workers.

DPI is caused by a build-up of lactic acid from static muscles. That’s why DPI occurs gradually over time, rather than a direct result from a sudden event or situation. 


alex kotliarskyi 361081 unsplashOffice workers are often static for long periods of time. Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash.

What are the primary causes of DPI?

Before we talk about prevention, we need to understand exactly how DPI can come about. Causes of DPI include:

  • Muscles contracting without relaxing
  • Bloody supply to muscles being hindered
  • Feeling stressed
  • Constricted or awkward posture
  • Repetitive actions and forceful movements
  • Precision work and intense concentration


Let’s give DPI some context

 A common way DPI can occur is through wrist injuries. Some of us spend hours every day typing at a desk, with our arm muscles contracted. Here are the stages of DPI in terms of a wrist injury:

Discomfort: Annoying ache in the wrist from time to time

Pain: Wrist ache becoming quite painful, so start wearing brace and taking painkillers

Injury: Diagnosable condition of carpal tunnel syndrome

We need to look out for and report early symptoms. This can include tingling / ‘pins and needles’, burning or aching sensation in muscles and joints, and tightness and hardening in muscles.


cytonn photography 604668 unsplashHolding our wrists in one position for a long period can lead to DPI. Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash.

So, what can we do to prevent DPI?

    1. Take micropauses. Drop your arms every five minutes, give them a shake, and try relaxing your muscles.
    2. Move and stretch. Stand up and stretch every 30 minutes. Try and make sure you move every hour.
    3. Get active! Go for lunchtime walks – and get your colleagues to go with you. 
    4. Adjust your environment. An ACC initiative, Habitat at Work, has provided some excellent prevention tips about setting up your workstation and environment:

      • Chair – correct height should have knees at 100-110° angles for good lumbar support
      • Desk – correct height should have elbows at 90° angles
      • Keyboard / mouse – have them close, with arms relaxed and not extended
      • Monitor – the top of screen at eye height

    5. Get a preventative programme going in your workplace. Air New Zealand developed a “Take Charge” programme that intervenes early when staff report pain or discomfort below the threshold of an injury. Air New Zealand significantly reduced the number of DPI injuries and it has almost halved days lost due to manual handling injury. Plus, Air New Zealand's “Take Charge” programme is so effective that it won the WorkSafe New Zealand best initiative to address a work-related health risk award at the 2018 NZ Workplace Health and Safety Awards. 


If you need a hand with your DPI training, have a look at our course here.