Repetitive Strain Injury Symptoms

Authored by Dr Laurence Knott, 06 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 06 Jul 2017

The symptoms tend to develop gradually. At first the symptoms may only occur whilst you do the repetitive task and ease off when you rest.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) symptoms in the affected area can include:

  • Pain
  • Tightness
  • Dull ache
  • Throbbing
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

The symptoms tend to develop gradually. At first the symptoms may only occur whilst you do the repetitive task and ease off when you rest. In time the symptoms can be present all the time but tend to be made worse by doing the repetitive task. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Some people divide RSI into two main categories: Type 1 RSI and Type 2 RSI.

Type 1 RSI

This includes well-defined syndromes such as:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain and squashing (compression) of a nerve in the wrist.
  • Tendinopathy: inflammation of a tendon.
  • Tenosynovitis: inflammation of a tendon sheath.

See separate leaflets called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis for more details. These conditions may be due to, or be made worse by, repetitive tasks. However, these syndromes are also common in people who have not done repetitive tasks. These syndromes may have other symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, nerve compression problems, etc.

Type 2 RSI

This is where symptoms do not fit into a well-defined syndrome. Also, there are no objective or measurable signs such as inflammation, swelling or problems with nerve function. It is sometimes called diffuse RSI or nonspecific pain syndrome.

Further reading and references

  • Ageing and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. A review of the recent literature; Health and Safety Executive, 2010

  • Waersted M, Hanvold TN, Veiersted KB; Computer work and musculoskeletal disorders of the neck and upper extremity: a BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 Apr 2911:79.

  • Wan B, Shan G; Biomechanical modeling as a practical tool for predicting injury risk related to repetitive muscle lengthening during learning and training of human complex motor skills. Springerplus. 2016 Apr 125:441. doi: 10.1186/s40064-016-2067-y. eCollection 2016.

  • Verhagen AP, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Burdorf A, et al; Conservative interventions for treating work-related complaints of the arm, neck or shoulder in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Dec 12(12):CD008742. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008742.pub2.

  • Bruls VE, Jansen NW, de Bie RA, et al; Towards a preventive strategy for complaints of arm, neck and/or shoulder (CANS): the role of help seeking behaviour. BMC Public Health. 2016 Nov 2816(1):1199.

  • Varatharajan S, Cote P, Shearer HM, et al; Are work disability prevention interventions effective for the management of neck pain or upper extremity disorders? A systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) collaboration. J Occup Rehabil. 2014 Dec24(4):692-708. doi: 10.1007/s10926-014-9501-1.

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