Repetitive Strain Injury (only read this “once”)

Jul 16 2018

From using our mobile phones too much to spending too long typing on our computers, we’re all aware of the everyday tasks that could put us in danger of developing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). But what exactly is RSI and is there a way that we can prevent it? We asked one of our Chartered Physiotherapists, for their expert advice on the subject…

What exactly is RSI?

RSI is an umbrella term used to describe several musculoskeletal disorders where pain is felt in muscles, tendons or nerves. It can be caused by a number of different factors, all of which relate to the overuse of a particular group of muscles or a specific body part.

RSI can also develop due to forceful activities, poor posture, a non-ergonomically designed workspace, fatigue or sustained awkward positioning and can affect a wide range of different body parts including the wrist, elbow, shoulder and knee.

The most common forms of RSI include Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Achilles Tendinopathy.

What symptoms do I need to be aware of?

RSI can occur for many different reasons and can present itself through a variety of different symptoms.

However, most RSI will include the following:

  • Pain or tenderness of the affected joint, tendon or muscles
  • Tingling/pins and needles
  • Loss of strength
  • Throbbing sensation in the affected area
  • Hot/burning sensation in the affected area
  • Loss of sensation

How can I avoid a RSI?

Unfortunately, depending on the cause of your RSI, it may be difficult to prevent it completely. Your physiotherapist should be able to diagnose exactly what caused your RSI after taking a thorough history and assessment.

However, here are some general tips to reduce your risk and/or reduce the intensity of your problem, if the activity cannot be stopped:

  • Avoid slouching in your chair at work. Try and keep your chest up and ears back in a straight line with your hips.
  • Ensure that your desk, chair and screen are aligned in an ergonomic way. Your physiotherapist will be able to show you the best set-up to decrease your risk of RSI or reduce your symptoms.
  • Take regular breaks. Taking breaks from a repetitive task, be it lifting or typing, can help to reduce the chance of overload on your muscles, tendons and nerves. If you sit at a desk for your day job, stand up every hour and stretch for a few minutes.
  • General Health. Eat healthily and do regular exercise. This is the perfect way to make your body as resilient as possible, in order to help it avoid the stresses and strains that lead to RSI. Activities such as smoking can increase your risk of developing this condition.

What treatment do I need?

After a thorough assessment, your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the source of your injury, whether it be your muscles, tendons, nerves or a combination of all three.

Once this has been identified, a treatment plan can then be developed. A combination of medication, taping/strapping, heat/cold and specifically tailored exercises will be used to decrease your symptoms, improve your function and return you back to doing the things that YOU want to.

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