RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is as the name suggests, a strain or injury that is caused by a repetitive movement of a body part. The injuries are to the tendons, muscles and nerves, usually in the hands, wrists, elbow, forearm and neck. It is sometimes referred to as Upper Limb Disorder (ULD) because it is often in the upper part of the body that it occurs.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of RSI vary, although they often include the following:

♦ Tenderness or pain in the joints or muscles.
♦ The affected area often has a throbbing sensation.
♦ A feeling of numbness or tingling (like pins and needles) in your arm or hand.
♦ The loss of strength or sensation in your hand.

To begin with these symptoms may occur only while you are doing a repetitive task or movement, such as while you are at work. Your symptoms may improve, or even disappear towards the end of the day after work has ended and you have rested. This initial stage may continue for several weeks.

Untreated these symptoms are likely to continue, they may cause pain or aching for much of the time. There may also be a tender swelling in the affected area, sometimes there is no swelling in your tendons or muscles, yet the pain can still cause discomfort. This can go on for several months.

Eventually the pain could be experienced all the time, which could even affect your sleep. It is best to recognise your symptoms early on and to get them treated, as at this stage the condition could become irreversible.

What Causes It?

A repeated action or movement, often which is undertaken on a daily basis can bring on RSI.
For example, using a computer at work, or typing, can cause the familiar symptoms of discomfort and throbbing pain, which can be caused by the repetitive movement involved.

Awkward posture and badly organised workstations could be a contributing factor. The use of poorly designed equipment will not help either. It is even thought that the regular use of vibrating equipment, such as within the factory environment, can be linked to RSI.

Left untreated the symptoms of RSI will persist.

How Can I Treat and Prevent It?

If you can, stop doing the activity or task that seems to be causing you discomfort.

Anti -Inflammatory treatments may help to relieve the pain and discomfort. Check with your doctor to see what they may recommend for you.

Temporary relief may be found from over-the-counter elastic supports, cold or heat packs or even a firm splint.

When doing a sporting activity, remember to do warm ups at the beginning and cool downs and at the end of each session.

Take regular breaks when doing repetitive work. Frequent smaller breaks are better for you than one long break.

When at your computer, position yourself comfortably to get the least amount of strain possible. Your forearms should be level with the desk and eyes the same height as the top of the computer screen.

The Most Common RSI Conditions

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

A condition where the median nerve that passes though the wrist is compressed, leading to pain and muscle weakness in the hand and forearm, often making it difficult to grip things. The development of CTS is often blamed on repetitive activities.

Tendinitis.

Inflammation of a tendon most commonly caused by over use, injury or aging as the tendon looses its elasticity. It causes pain and tenderness along a tendon, usually in close proximity to a joint. Most common in elbows, knees and shoulders but can also occur in heels and wrists. The pain is worse with activity and movement.

Bursitis.

Inflammation of a bursa (small fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning between bones & tendons and/or muscles surrounding a joint). It is commonly caused by repetition of use and movement, or excessive pressure. The knee, elbow, shoulder or hip joint being the most often affected. The pain, tenderness, or limited motion caused, is usually worse during or after activity, with the joint area becoming stiffer the next day. Housemaid’s knee is a well known form of Bursitis.

Tennis Elbow. (Lateral Epicondylitis)

A condition when the outer side of the upper forearm, just below the bend of the elbow, becomes tender and painful. Normally as a result of strain, overuse or a direct knock. Twisting movements using the forearm are particularly painful to undertake, even turning a door handle can cause discomfort. Pain may sometimes be felt down the arm towards the wrist. The pain normally lasts for 6-12 weeks.

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