What is OOS? And Am I at Risk?

Once called repetitive strain injury (RSI) occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) is a type of injury common to fingers, hands, wrists and elbows but can also affect the tendons and muscles of the shoulders, back and neck.

Symptoms usually start gradually, sometimes with stiffness and weakness. Or you may feel a burning, aching or throbbing pain. Other common symptoms of OOS are numbness, muscle weakness, swelling or restricted mobility of the affected joint.

What causes OOS?

We used to associate OOS only with repetitive actions, particularly typing. Repetitive activities are one common cause of OOS but you can also develop it from working in a fixed or awkward posture for a long time. The following occupations may pose a risk.

  • Office work – such as typing and clerical duties
  • Process work – such as assembly line and packing
  • Manual work – such as bricklaying and carpentry

You are also at risk if you play certain sports like golf or tennis (tennis elbow is an overuse injury) or use certain machinery such as hand-held power tools.

Reduce your risk

The way your workplace is designed can increase or decrease your risk of OOS. You are more at risk if the furniture or equipment is awkward to us – too high or too far away from your body for instance – or the workspace design means you have to bend, stretch or twist a lot.

Try the following to make things more comfortable:

  • Use ergonomically designed furniture and equipment where possible
  • Rearrange your workspace to keep everything within easy reach
  • Keep benches at waist height so your shoulders can relax and your arms can bend gently at your elbow
  • At the computer, adjust the height of your chair so your elbows are level with the keyboard
  • Vary tasks so you are not performing the same action all day
  • Take frequent breaks

Speak to your manager if you are experiencing any symptoms of OOS. There may be ways to improve work practices and your workspace. If symptoms do not improve or they get worse, see your doctor.

Can Blue Light Glasses Reduce Eyestrain?

Blue light glasses are marketed as the brilliant solution to the eyestrain and sleep disruption caused by devices such as computers, TVs and smartphones. But do these glasses actually solve the problem?

To answer that question, we first need to figure out what the problem is. What is blue light, and what kind of issues does it really cause?

Blue light is not new. The sun emits blue light, as do LED light bulbs. But in recent years, we have been exposed to more blue light than ever before.

Does blue light cause eyestrain?

The simple answer is: it might, but we are not sure. We do not have enough research about the long-term impacts of blue light exposure over a lifetime, because LED devices are too new.

There is no doubt that staring at screens for too long can cause eye strain. But this might be due to the glare and contrast, and the way your eyes are constantly moving when looking at a screen.

What about sleep?

As the sun sets, the sky usually refracts more red and orange light. We have evolved to recognise this as time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

So when we flood our eyesight with blue light, especially just before bedtime, there is a risk it could confuse our natural sleep system.

So, do blue light glasses work?

Blue light blocking glasses have coatings that filter out the blue light.

There are numbers of different types of lenses available, from lenses that claim to block up to 50% of blue light, up to those that claim to block 100% of blue light.

But blocking all blue light during the day could have other negative effects.

During the day, blue light can be a good thing. It is shown to help you feel more alert (which could explain the sleep issues) and also boosts your mood.

In summary

Staring at a screen for too long can cause eye strain. The blue light itself is unlikely to cause eyestrain, but may disrupt your sleep to some extent.

To reduce the effects of blue light, you can wear blue light blocking glasses, but you are better off giving yourself more breaks from screens.

5 Benefits of Exercising in the Cold

If cold water swimming, cold showers, or ice baths do not appeal, you can still get the benefits of the cold by exercising outside in the colder months.

Do not put off by the cold weather. Getting outside to exercise brings additional benefits.

1. You will not get uncomfortably hot and sweaty.

Summer may have its pluses, but the heat and humidity can derail the best exercise plans. “When you exercise in the cold, you can potentially push yourself harder and exercise longer or with more intensity without having to stop due to getting too hot or sweating too much,” says Dr Cara Ocobock, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame in the US.

2. You will burn more calories.

Exercising in the cold will burn more calories but not because you are cold, says Dr Ocobock, as you tend to warm up when you are exercising. It is because it allows you to exercise longer without overheating. There is also evidence that exercising in cold weather helps to turn the white fat we use for energy storage into brown fat, which stimulates our metabolism and helps to burn calories.

3. You will feel more alert. Being in the cold can activate the fight or flight response, releasing hormones like adrenaline and increasing your sense of alertness, says Dr Paul Gallo of Colombia University. Fans of cold water swimming often report how their mood lifts after their plunge in icy water, but you can get the same effect after a brisk walk on a chilly morning.

4. It is good for keeping colds away.

Exercise of any type at any time of year is good for your immunity, and in the winter months this is important for fighting off the common cold, COVID-19, and any other opportunistic infections.

Another reason to get out your walking boots and explore your city in winter is the wind. Wind disperses pollution and rain washes the air of dirt and germs, says Annabel Streets, author of 52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time. She points to a 2021 study that found the best days to avoid catching COVID-19 were windy days, when germs and bacteria were instantly blown away.

5. Your heart will thank you.

Your heart benefits from a cold weather workout thanks to something called vasoconstriction, says Dr Gallo. “This results in the heart having to work harder to pump blood to the muscles, especially if you are doing aerobic activity like cycling or running.” Anything that strengthens your heart is a smart move, with cardiovascular disease being one of the top causes of death and disability. But always make sure to chat to your GP before starting an exercise program, particularly if you have cardiovascular disease.

The Best Brain Foods

Feel like a pick-me-up? Choose one of the following to boost your brain function.

Chocolate: a powerful antioxidant as well as a vasodilator, which means more blood gets pumped to your brain. But make it dark, not milk.

Caffeine: your daily cuppa can help your concentration and focus, and will add to your bank of antioxidants.

Beans and legumes: an excellent source of folate, an important brain nutrient. People on antidepressants respond better to medication when they have an adequate supply of folate.

Nuts and seeds: a great source of vitamin E, associated with lower cognitive decline as you age. Walnuts and linseeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, known to enhance brain function.

Berries: great source of antioxidants.

Beetroot: high in natural nitrates that boost blood flow to the brain.

Eggs: a leading source of choline, a precursor to acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in helping your memory.