Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is damage to a portion of the musculoskeletal or neurological system caused by repeated use, vibrations, compression, or long periods of inactivity. Repetitive stress disorders (RSDs), cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), and overuse syndrome are some of the other names for the condition.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) and associative trauma disorder are umbrella words for conditions linked to repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, prolonged awkward positions, or repetitive eccentric contractions. Although the precise terminology is debatable, the US Department of Labor and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) now use the terms musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and work-related muscular-skeletal diseases (WMDs).

Tendinosis (or less commonly tendinitis), carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, De Quervain syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, intersection syndrome, golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis), tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), trigger finger, radial tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome.

Since the 1970s, an increase in the arms, hands, neck, and shoulder RSIs have been blamed on the widespread use of keyboard entry devices in the workplace, such as typewriters and computers, that require extended periods of repetitive motions in a fixed position.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records, RSI affects some 1.8 million workers per year.

In addition, extreme heat has also been linked to a higher rate of RSI.

  • using a mouse on a laptop
  • typing
  • swiping products through the checkout line at a supermarket
  • using tools
  • working on a production line
  • sports conditioning


Symptoms may appear gradually, then become more frequent and stronger. Symptoms may impair your ability to do regular tasks even after receiving treatment.

What are the causes of RSI, and what are the risk factors?

When you do repetitive actions, you may get RSI. Over time, those movements might cause injury to your muscles and tendons.


The following activities can put you at risk for RSI:

  • repetitively pushing the same muscles
  • standing in the same position for an extended amount of time
  • retaining an unnatural posture for a long time, such as holding your arms over your head
  • moving and lifting big objects
  • being in low physical shape or not getting enough exercise


How is Repetitive Strain Injury RSI diagnosed?

A variety of objective clinical measures are used to assess RSIs. Grip and pinch strength tests, diagnostic tests like Finkelstein's test for De Quervain's tendinitis, Phalen's contortion, Tinel's percussion for carpal tunnel syndrome, and nerve conduction velocity tests that demonstrate nerve compression in the wrist are all examples. X-ray for the wrist and MRI for the thoracic outlet and cervicobrachial areas are two imaging techniques that can show nerve compression. Routine imaging can help with the early detection and treatment of overuse injuries in at-risk populations, which is crucial for avoiding long-term consequences.


It's a good idea to consult your doctor about RSI if you're even slightly uncomfortable performing particular chores at work or home. Your doctor will inquire about your employment and other activities to determine if you engage in repetitive movements. They'll also ask about your working conditions, such as whether you use a computer or have an ergonomic workstation. They'll also do a physical examination. During the assessment, they'll do a range of motion tests and look for soreness, inflammation, reflexes, and strength in the affected area.


Your doctor may arrange magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to determine tissue damage. For the screening of nerve injury, electromyography (EMG) may be ordered.

Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist if the damage is minor. They may also refer you to a specialist or surgeon if the damage is severe.

How is Repetitive Strain Injury RSI treated?

For RSI, there are no quick fixes. The need for early detection in limiting harm is crucial. Occupational Therapists design therapies for Upper Limb Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) that involve ergonomic education. Understanding the proper approach during supporting functional job movements can reduce the risk of an upper limb strain injury. Many muscle strains, ligament sprains, and other bruises and injuries are initially treated with the RICE method. RICE is applied as soon as the damage occurs and throughout the first 24 to 48 hours afterward. These techniques can assist in the reduction of the pain.


Analgesics, my feedback, biofeedback, physical therapy, relaxation, and ultrasound therapy are all standard therapies for early-stage RSIs. However, if treatment is started soon after symptoms appear, low-grade RSIs can sometimes resolve independently. 

On the other hand, some RSIs may necessitate more invasive treatment, such as surgery, and can last for years. Although there are no "quick cures" for RSI, effective treatment and preventative methods are available. One is ergonomics, which alters one's environment (particularly workplace equipment) to reduce repetitive strain.


The risk of acquiring RSI has been reduced by general exercise. Some doctors advise RSI patients to do specialized strengthening exercises, such as improving sitting posture, reducing excessive kyphosis, and possibly preventing thoracic outlet syndrome. Posture and arm use modifications are frequently suggested. How does RSI look in the future? Your symptoms' severity and overall health will determine your RSI prognosis. You can adapt your work routine and reduce pain and damage by taking preventive precautions. Alternatively, you may need to take a break from work to rest the affected area. If alternative treatments fail, your doctor may consider surgery to treat specific nerve and tendon disorders.




Proper keyboard alignment

Most office ergonomics experts teach employees that they should set up their keyboards correctly so they can type in a neutral position. However, because we spend so much time typing emails, reports, and spreadsheets, poor keyboard positioning can lead to repetitive strain injuries.


Take breaks

Sitting in the same position for long periods is not recommended. Instead, take advantage of natural pauses away from your desks, such as meetings and copying, by stretching or taking a quick walk around the office. Remember to take a rest for your eyes. Look up every few seconds to gaze for a few seconds at anything at least 20 feet away.


Reduce mouse use

Wrist, hand, and neck strain can occur due to minor mouse movements. The first step toward decreasing stress is to place the mouse at the right height and position, but finding strategies to limit mouse use is another wonderful office ergonomic tip. Learn keyboard shortcuts for simple functions like cut and paste, and use the mouse keys feature, which allows you to move the pointer across the screen using the arrow keys on a keyboard's number pad.


Adjust seating

Employees become fatigued after a hard day at work. Poor posture is a primary source of repetitive strain injuries; thus, leaning on desks or slouching should be avoided. In addition, employees' seats should be adjusted to sit straight with their feet on the floor or a footstool, not leaning to the side or toward their computer screen. See a doctor at the first signs of strain. A repetitive strain injury could cause a stiff neck, numbness in the fingers, or other upper body symptoms. The longer an injury stays untreated and untreated, the longer it will take to recover. Don't put off getting help if you're in agony. Take the time to receive the support you require.