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Repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is very common and is when repetitive movement causes pain due to overuse or strain of muscles, ligaments, or tendons. The symptoms can range from pain and aching to numbness or tingling and they tend to start and are made worse by doing repetitive movement.

It can occur in the areas around different joints or muscles in the body switch the most common areas being the hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and neck. Along with repetitive movements, stress, vibrating work tools, and cold weather can also increase your risk of developing RSI. Common reasons for developing RSI are doing repetitive tasks at work, using a computer or mouse, gaming, sportspeople, wheelchair users, and musicians. However, not everyone in these categories develops RSI.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

If you’re getting pain from the area that has been over-used, you’ll need to rest up and avoid any activity that causes further pain. It needs time to recover. You can also take over-the-counter pain relief like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.

If it’s not an option to avoid the activity, you could try a wrist splint in wrist pain – it helps to reduce the load on the area and give it time to heal.

Your local pharmacy can recommend a splint. If pain continues, you can see your doctor or a physiotherapist. Strengthening exercises around the area may help. You could also look into an improved desk set-up, such as an ergonomic keyboard, an upright mouse or a different games console.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a routine doctor’s appointment if the pain is not improving with pain relief and rest, if it is affecting your ability to work or if you’re getting weakness or numbness.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. They will examine the area that is hurting and check the joints around it. There are no specific tests to diagnose RSI but your doctor can diagnose it after listening to your symptoms, assessing and ruling out any other causes of your symptoms. To do this you may have blood tests taken or be sent for further scans such as an ultrasound or X-ray.

When to take things further

It may be worth enquiring if your employer has access to an Occupational Health service, to help you recover from RSI if they consider this a work-related injury.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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