Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)


Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is typically a soft-tissue injury characterized by an inflammation of the muscles, nerves, ligaments or tendons.

In fact, it is an umbrella term, used to refer to various kinds of work-related muscoskeletal injuries. Hence such injuries are also referred to as the Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULDs) and Occupational Overuse Injuries.

The primary warning sign of RSI is a sensation of pain in the upper extremities .i.e. fingers, palms, wrists, forearms and shoulders. The pain could be local or diffuse and may be described as burning, aching or shooting.

Types of RSI

Though a majority of RSI disorders is found in computer and assembly line workers, yet the symptoms of RSI have surfaced in a vast range of occupations from musicians to meatpackers. Here we list the main forms of RSI:

a. Carpal tunnel syndrome

b. DeQuervain’s syndrome

c. Intersection syndrome

d. Stenosing tenosynovitis

e. Tendonitis

f. Tenosynovitis

g. Thoracic outlet syndrome

h. Trigger finger

Key Symptoms

A repetitive strain injury normally starts with a slight ache felt occasionally. With the passage of time, the extent of damage continues and the individuals may experience symptoms while performing the concerned activity, such as when typing.

Some of the key symptoms of RSI are:

· Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness, burning or recurring pain in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms or elbows

· Tingling, coldness or numbness in hands

· Clumsiness or loss of strength and coordination in the hands

· Pain that wakes you up at night

· Feeling a need to massage your hands, wrists and arms

· Pain in the upper back, shoulders or neck associated with computer usage

· Constant fatigue and behavioral changes

Causes of RSI

Repetitive strain injuries occur from repeated physical movements, causing damage to the tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissue. The repetitive motions, excessive force and extremes of motion tend to strain the soft tissues, reducing circulation.

Such stress in turn creates tiny tears in the muscles and tendons, which get inflamed gradually.

The main causes of RSI can be listed as below:

· Countless repetitions

· Work intensity

· Ageing, loss of resilience

· Ergonomics

· Physiology or anatomy

· Fatigue

· Slouching posture

· Muscle tension

· Chest compression

· Inflammation and swelling

· Abrasion and irritation

· Nerve entrapment

Treatment of RSI

A series of treatment options are followed for relief from symptoms and pain associated to a repetitive strain injury. The main forms of treatment followed are:

· Heat or cold packs

· Painkillers

· Anti-inflammatory medicines

· Elastic wrist supports

· Acupuncture

· Firm wrist splints

· Physiotherapy

· Osteopathy

· Alexander technique

Prevention and Self Care

· Proper exercise of limbs

· Correct posture

· Well-designed workstation

· Ergonomic devices

· Adequate breaks from work