Repetitive Strain Injury - RSI

Repetitive strain injury (RSI), also called work-related upper limb disorder (WRULD), is a general term used to describe the pain caused to muscles, nerves and tendons by repetitive movement and overuse. The condition mostly affects parts of the upper body, such as the forearm, elbow, wrist, hands, neck and shoulders.

RSI is usually associated with doing a particular activity repeatedly or for a long period of time. It often occurs in people who work with computers or carry out repetitive manual work.

In the UK one worker in 50 has reported an RSI condition.

Types of Repetitive strain injury (RSI):

There are two types of RSI:
Type 1 RSI: RSI is classed as type 1 when a doctor can diagnose a recognised medical condition, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms usually include swelling and inflammation of the muscles or tendons.

Type 2 RSI: RSI is classed as type 2 when a doctor cannot diagnose a medical condition from the symptoms. This is usually because there are no obvious symptoms, just a feeling of pain. Type 2 RSI is also referred to as non-specific pain syndrome.

RSI Conditions:
There are several medical conditions and injuries that can be classed as type 1 RSI, including the following.
  • Bursitis: inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sac near a joint at the knee, elbow or shoulder.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pressure on the median nerve passing through the wrist.
  • Dupuytren's contracture: a thickening of deep tissue in the palm of the hand and into the fingers.
  • Epicondylitis: inflammation of an area where bone and tendon join. An example of epicondylitis is tennis elbow. 
  • Rotator cuff syndrome:inflammation of muscles and tendons in the shoulder.
  • Tendonitis: inflammation of a tendon. 
  • Tenosynovitis: inflammation of the inner lining of the tendon sheath that houses tendons. Tenosynovitis most commonly occurs in the hand, wrist or forearms.
  • Ganglion cyst: a sac of fluid that forms around a joint or tendon, usually on the wrist or fingers.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: a condition where the blood supply to extremities, such as the fingers, is interrupted.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome: compression of the nerves or blood vessels that run between the base of the neck and the armpit.
  • Writer’s cramp:part of a family of disorders known as dystonia that cause muscle spasms in the affected part of the body. Writer’s cramp occurs from overuse of the hands and arms.
Symptoms Of RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury:
RSI is an overuse injury and so symptoms gradually develop and become more severe over a period of time. Initially the symptoms tend to only occur whilst performing the aggravating activity, however with no rest or treatment they will progress, to be present with other activities and then even present at rest. The following symptoms are common:
  • Pain
  • Dull ache
  • Throbbing
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Tightness
Early symptoms including a weak, tired and aching feeling in the hands and wrists following a days work, are often not recognised.

Treatment Of RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury
  • Rest from the aggravating activity. This can be easier said than done if it is a work-related activity. However, making modifications to your workspace or work responsibilities may be possible.
  • Provide strengthening or stretching exercises to help improve your posture and strengthen the associated muscles
  • Therapies such as massage, ultrasound and acupuncture have been shown to help in some cases
  • In the most severe inflammatory cases, Corticosteroid injections may be considered
  • The use of a wrist brace or support can help in the early stages to provide additional support and comfort
  • Apply cold therapy when it is stiff or painful

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