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What Is Repetitive Strain Injury?

RSI caused by typing

Repetitive strain injury, or RSI, is a work related medical condition that affects the upper limbs. Basically, it describes pain felt in the nerves, muscles and tendons that is caused by overusing and repetitively moving certain limbs. Most of the time, it occurs in the elbow, the forearm, the wrist, the neck, the hands and the shoulders. Often, people also experience swelling and stiffness in those areas.

The Types of Repetitive Strain Injury
There are two main types of RSI, making it very difficult to provide an accurate repetitive strain injury definition. The two types and their repetitive strain injury symptoms are:
1. Type 1 repetitive strain injury, where the condition can be diagnosed due to a number of symptoms being recognised, such as inflammation or swelling of the tendons and muscles.
2. Type 2 repetitive strain injury, where it cannot be diagnosed. This is often because the symptoms aren’t obvious, even though you experience pain. Type 2 is often referred to as non-specific pain syndrome.

A number of medical conditions can be classed as being repetitive strain injuries. These include:
• Bursitis, which is an inflammation of the fluid in the sack of the knee, elbow or shoulder joint.
• Carpel tunnel syndrome, where the median nerve in the writs is compressed through pressure.
• Tendonitis, which is when the tendons become inflamed.

What Causes Repetitive Strain Injury?
Most of the time, repetitive strain injury is caused by using the same set of muscles or tendons again and again over long periods of time. It is most common in people who work with computers, or who perform repetitive manual tasks. Around one in every 50 works is reported to have RSI. The risk of RSI is greater when:
• An activity is repeated regularly without periods of rest
• An activity involves using a lot of force, such as lifting
• The person has poor posture or if activities can only be performed in awkward positions
• The ambient temperature is very cool
• The equipment that is used vibrates
• The person experiences a lot of stress.

RSI Treatment
Before thinking of what treatment is most applicable, the patient has to recognise which activity is actually causing the RSI in the first place. A medical professional may recommend a number of different things in terms of treating repetitive strain injury, including:
• Painkillers with anti-inflammation properties, such as ibuprofen or aspiring
• Using cold packs, heat packs, splints and elastic supports
• Being provided with steroid injections, which reduces inflammation but is only recommended if the problem is severe. This is often the case in tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Patients are also regularly sent to physiotherapists to receive advice on better posture and to learn how to make their muscles stronger and how to relax them. There are a number of other repetitive strain injury remedies that are known to be beneficial, including osteopathy, massage, yoga and acupuncture.

Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury
Prevention is always better than repetitive strain injury treatment. Hence, employers should provide their employees with a workplace assessment and ensure their employees are comfortable. Employees themselves should think about their posture and of how they type. They should also consider their own lifestyle and their stress levels, as well as remembering to take regular breaks during any tasks.

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