Repetitive Strain Injury

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

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a condition where pain and other symptoms occur in an area of the body which has done repetitive tasks (often the arms or hands). Repetitive strain means strain related to actions which are frequently repeated.

The term repetitive strain injury (RSI) is used to describe a range of painful conditions of the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues. It is mainly caused by repetitive use of part of the body. It is usually related to a task or occupation but leisure activities can also be a cause. Unlike a normal strain following a sudden injury, symptoms of RSI can persist well beyond the time it would take symptoms of a normal strain to ease.

You may also see the term overuse injury. This is a general name for conditions in which the muscles, tendons or soft tissues are used excessively but, unlike RSI, do not necessarily involve repetition of the same movement.

Symptoms depend on what the repetitive actions are. In most cases the symptoms develop in an arm, wrist or hand, as these parts of the body most commonly do repetitive tasks. In recent years it is computer operators, typists, musicians and people doing repetitive tasks in factories who most commonly develop repetitive strain injury (RSI). People who do a lot of DIY around the house may develop RSI, or people who do certain sports which involve repetitive movements.

Commonly it's the arm, wrist or hand but of course it depends on which part of the body is being repeatedly used. In wheelchair users it's often the shoulders which are jerked when the chair is manually propelled. It's commonly seen in computer operators, factory workers and people who do certain sports. And if you want to avoid doing DIY, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is as good an excuse as any.

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.

Four months ago I suffered mild head injury/ a concussiom after a little accident. I had pretty bad symtpoms for about two months. After three months, most symtpoms had disappeared and I went back to...

Walter12345
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