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Repetitive Strain/Stress Injury (RSI)


A Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an injury or multiple injuries to the nervous system and musculoskeletal structure caused by repetitive use of one or more muscles and joints in the body. It happens when you perform the same action over and over again.

Repetitive moving, such as scrubbing or washing, can lead to a repetitive stress injury (RSI).

A repetitive stress injury usually occurs after the age of 30 and is a result of wear and tear from the overuse of muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments as you age. These repetitive motion injuries can occur in the shoulders, back, neck, hands, hips, wrists, elbows and lower limbs. It is a general term that refers to many conditions including (but not limited to) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, de Quervain's Disease, Writer's Cramp, Vibration White Finger, Radial Tunnel Syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis (tendonitis), tenosynovitis, and trigger finger.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are quite common and often referred to by other names including: repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injury, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CT), occupational overuse syndrome, overuse syndrome, regional musculoskeletal disorder, and work related upper limb disorder (WRULD, ULD).


RSI Symptoms

  • Tenderness, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
  • Pain when you move the area that may cause you to wake throughout the night.
  • Numbness, stiffness, weakness or tingling in the affected muscles, tendons, joints and bones.
  • Discomfort brought on by a particular task that improves when it is stopped - i.e., when pain lessens or disappears over weekends or during holidays.

RSI Causes

  • Daily repetitive movements (usually longer than 2 hours per day) usually involved with working in a factory (sautering or assembling pieces), office (typing or clicking a mouse), or warehouse (lifting or twisting).
  • Poor posture while working at a desk or awkward positioning while performing tasks such as shoveling, sliding, lifting, and twisting frequently.
  • Kneeling during work everyday, like tiling or scrubbing floors, puts excess pressure on the knee tendons and bursa which can cause repetitive stress injuries.
  • Heavy loads and forceful exertion on bursae, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments that cause trauma or fatigue.
  • Frequent vibrations that cause blood vessels to constrict and impair circulation.
  • Repeating the same movement during a sport or leisure activity such as gardening.

Examples of Repetitive Strain Injury

  • Housemaid's Knee (pre-patellar bursitis) - long periods of time kneeling to tile or scrub a floor
  • Biceps tendinitis (tendonitis) - repeated scrubbing motion
  • De Quervain's Disease - repeated twisting of the wrist or pinching motions
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) - forceful backward bending of the wrist when painting with a brush
  • Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) - forceful forward or twisting motion of the wrist when pulling on ropes

RSI Treatments

If a repetitive stress injury (RSI) is detected early, there is a greater chance that the condition can be reversed and symptoms can be eased.

If you have been diagnosed with RSI, it is recommended that you rest the injured body part from any aggravating factors, especially the task(s) that caused the condition. Your physician may also recommend painkillers/anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy, the use of a Cold Compress or Ice Pack, stretches and exercise, ultrasound and/or tens. We recommend you speak with your physician of physical therapist about utilizing our home treatment devices for enhancing your recovery.


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