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What is RSI?

Updated: Jun 14

A patient grasping their painful wrist as a result of a repetitive strain injury

RSI stand for "Repetitive Strain Injury" or "Repetitive Stress Injury"; but RSI is not a single condition. It is an umbrella term used to cover a whole range of injuries which result from repetitive overuse. The term has now been replaced with "cumulative strain disorders". Repetitive strain injury or overuse syndrome as it is also known, may impact on muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Depending on which structures are involved, symptoms may include muscle or tendon pain, stiffness, swelling, pins and needles or numbness. Symptoms usually begin very gradually, and if work related, typically get worse by the end of the day or the end of the working week.

What causes RSI?

Overuse injuries can happen to anyone, but they are understandably more common for people who have jobs which require highly repetitive movement such as process workers, hairdressers, cleaners, mechanics, musicians and people who work on computers all day. They can also occur as a result of taking on too much physical activity too quickly or doing an activity which your body is not accustomed to, such as taking on a strenuous DIY project if you usually work in an office. Overuse injuries are also more likely to occur as you get older. Poor posture or technique can also cause an overuse injury.

Will RSI just go away?

The condition tends to get progressively worse if the underlying cause is not addressed. The pain may start to interfere with all your everyday activities.

How to Treat RSI

Pain relieving treatment provided at Bribane's Bayside Hand Therapy bayside clinic

Treatment for RSI will vary greatly depending on which structure is involved. Our hand therapists will perform a thorough assessment to determine which tendons, muscles or nerves are involved. We will also work with you to determine the likely cause of the over-use condition, and help you find long term solutions to help prevent re-aggravation. Your hand therapist may fit you with a custom-made splint to rest the involved tendons. Massage, kinesiotape, trigger point dry needling, therapeutic ultrasound and inter X neurostimulation may be used as part of your treatment. Your therapist will also prescribe exercises appropriate to your condition.

The recovery will always be quicker the earlier treatment is commenced, so if you have even mild discomfort after completing work tasks it is a good idea to be assessed by a hand therapist, so you can receive timely treatment and prevent it getting worse.

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