Repetitive strain injury Repetitive strain injury, abbreviated as RSI, is a condition popular under multiple names, among which occupational overuse syndrome, work-related upper limb injury or isometric contraction myopathy.

It is the outcome of overexploitation and injuries of the muscles of the hands, the wrists, the arms or the shoulders. Constant movements of the fingers by a typist or a musician, for example, also fall into this category. Such excessive use of the muscles causes stress on the tissue at a microscopic level.

As a result, molecular changes, such as the secretion of chemicals, take place whose purpose is to reduce or to cope with the damage. Nevertheless, the capabilities of the body to preserve itself are surpassed by prolonged, repetitive movement. This is how the tissues become impaired and RSI appears.

Symptoms of Repetitive strain injury

RSI may not become evident for months, even years. Firstly, RSI subjects complain of nothing but a slight ache. As the condition advances, the pain sharpens when one is performing the habitual activity (typing, for example, as mentioned above). As soon as the disorder enters a severe stage, pain may no longer disappear and one might be tormented even with the slightest movement.

Only one or both upper limbs could be affected judging on which is more strained in a particular task. Apart from pain, numbness and tingling may also show up, making it more difficult for somebody to hold objects with their hands. One should bear in mind that the risk of RSI rises drastically if one spends extended periods without a break, sitting on an uncomfortable chair, at a poorly arranged workplace.

It is the computer keyboard and the mouse to be blamed for RSI at work. Among the other major culprits are home computers, video games and text messaging. Workers on factory assembly lines, musicians, dressmakers and cleaners are considered to be in the riskiest group.

Treatment of Repetitive strain injury

Here are some of the frequently suggested treatments of RSI:

• Allowing the affected area to repose;
• Taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs;
• Applying cold packs and exposure to heat;
• Using elastic wrist supports or firm wrist splints;
• Trying acupuncture, physiotherapy or osteopathy.

Experts recommend the following practices as ways of minimizing the risk of RSI: warming up and cooling down the exerted muscles, taking regular breaks in the course of the day, setting up a comfortable workstation and seating position, and, last but now least, paying attention to relaxation. If you are threatened to develop a repetitive strain injury because of your job, search for professional advice and coordinate things with your employer or professional body.