RSI/CANS for students


Repetitive strain injury (rsi), also known by its abbreviation 'cans' (complaints of arm, neck and/or shoulder),

is one of several work-related complaints that may cause health issues and decreased deployability.
The RSI leaflet on this page provides general information about RSI, working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE), ways to prevent complaints and where to go to should any complaints occur. In addition, you will find software offering instructions on how to optimally set up your workstation (digital self-help instrument). Other topics you can find information on include the RSI prevention software Workrave and the risks of working on a laptop.

The term 'RSI' has been replaced by 'CANS': Complaints of Arm, Neck and/or Shoulder. In this leaflet, however, we consistently use the term 'RSI'.

Laptops and RSI

The number of people who have RSI is increasing, and certainly, not all of them are aged fifty or over. RSI is strongly associated with an increasing number of hours in front of the computer screen. RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is an umbrella term used for muscle, nerve and tendon complaints occurring anywhere from the neck to the fingertips. It can emerge when there is a long-term strain on the same muscles, which may lead to pain, fatigue and tingling of the neck, shoulder and/or arm.

You can prevent RSI by taking into account the five factors below which can typically result in the onset of RSI:

  • Study tasks;
  • Time to study;
  • Study workload;
  • Study area;
  • Study posture.

RSI is best prevented if you pay attention to all of these factors.

At UT, more and more students are working with a laptop. This comes with additional health risks (RSI may develop more quickly). Working on the laptop in the wrong way may cause permanent damage to your joints and limbs. That's why, when working on a laptop, it's important to use the correct posture and to take enough breaks.

Good posture

By nature, the human body has a posture which puts most of the limbs under the least pressure. When sitting, this rest pose depends on gravity. The neck and spinal column should be in a straight line as much as possible, so they can bear the weight of the head well.

This means that, when working in front of a computer, the chair should be at a height where your legs form a 90° angle. The desk should be at such a height that you can use the keyboard with your arms forming the same 90° angle. If you were to use a laptop in this position, you would have to bend your head downwards to be able to look at the screen correctly. For this reason, laptops do not meet the workstation requirements for Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work as included in the legislation on working conditions. However, there is a tool that allows you to use your laptop in a way that ticks all the boxes: the laptop stand. This stand enables you to quickly and easily raise the position of the laptop, making for ergonomically sound DSE work. Combined with an external keyboard and mouse, you will have a full-fledged workstation.

That's why you should always use a laptop stand!

Other tips to prevent RSI

Apart from good posture, it is also very important to keep a number of other details in mind to prevent RSI.

  • When working on your laptop, regularly interrupt your work for several minutes (at least once per hour). Research has shown that distributing DSE work over the day – where each hour of DSE work should contain at least five minutes (preferably ten) doing other activities – causes less unease and physical fatigue. At the UT, you can use the RSI prevention software Workrave as a tool to regularly take a break from your DSE work.
  • Tension/stress as a result of a heavy workload also influences muscle tone; reducing tension and stress, therefore, has a positive effect on muscle tone. Moreover, severely increased and long-lasting strains are prevented.
  • Do not work in the exact same posture for long periods of time. Make sure to move your neck sufficiently and stretch your arms and legs at regular intervals.
  • If the first signs of overstraining your muscles start to show, relieve the limbs in question even more. If necessary, take extra periods of rest until the complaints are alleviated. Contact an expert if your complaints remain the same.
  • Fill in the Digital self-help tool (KANS-test).

What to do in case of RSI/RSI-related complaints

Questions about RSI and/or DSE work can initially be presented to your own faculty’s Health & Safety and Environment Coordinator. Students with RSI are advised to make an appointment with the UT Campus General Practitioner or their own GP. In case of personal problems due to RSI or RSI-related complaints, the student psychologist is always there to help. The student psychologist deals with personal aspects which play or may play a role in the onset of RSI. Visits to the student psychologist are free of charge and you do not necessarily need a referral letter. You can also refer to a physiotherapist. On campus, you can make an appointment with Topvorm Twente.

For non-medical matters, such as study delay caused by RSI and financial problems resulting from this delay, you can contact the student counsellor

You can also visit that website for more detailed information about RSI and related topics:

  • Laptops and RSI;
  • Software to prevent RSI (Workrave).

Use this information to prevent RSI from becoming a Rapid Student Injury for you.

For ideas, comments or changes to this page, please email

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