Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

RSI (also known as Work Related Upper Limb Disorder) is used to describe a range of painful conditions of the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.

 It is mainly caused by repetitive movement or from doing a particular activity for long periods of time.  It is usually related to a task or occupation but leisure activities can also be a cause.  RSI commonly affects the wrists, fingers, hands, elbow, neck and shoulder.

You are most likely to be affected if your job involves working mainly with your arms, for example computer use, driving heavy machinery or assembly line work.

The main cause is frequent and repetitive movements of a part of the body.  In most cases a mix of factors will combine to result in an RSI-type condition.  Factors to do with the work environment include ergonomically unsound workstations, prolonged periods of work without adequate breaks, sustained overuse from too much repetitive movement, excessive workload and patterns of work or poor posture.  However, the precise reason why RSI develops is not clear as some people will develop the condition whilst others who do the same repetitive tasks do not.  Stress at work may also contribute to the development of RSI.

Symptoms of RSI are not necessarily visible in the affected area, but are commonly described in terms such as pain, throbbing, numbness, a dull ache or tightness.  The symptoms tend to develop gradually.  At first, the symptoms may only occur whilst you are doing the repetitive task and ease off when you rest.  After a while, the symptoms can be present more of the time but tend to be made worse while doing the repetitive task.

There is no single treatment for RSI.  It is important to see your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as you feel there may be a problem and if you consider the cause could be RSI.  It is thought that the earlier the problem is recognised and dealt with, the better the outcome.

Treatment can include the following:

  • reduce or modify the activity which seems to be causing the symptoms - this may include adjusting your work set-up
  • physiotherapy assessment and treatment which aims to restore normal function
  • medication including painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants
  • relaxation techniques and regular exercise such as swimming can be helpful

If possible, it is better to try to prevent or minimise the risk of developing RSI.  This may include looking at the risk factors inherent in your job and lifestyle. .

At the Centre for Clinical Physiotherapy we offer a wide range of services, knowledge and expertise to effectively treat and manage Repetitive Strain Injuries. Treatments are delivered by highly skilled and experienced physiotherapists who are passionate about delivering a quality service and the best possible results for you.

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