Repetitive strain injury (RSI)

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Repetitive strain injury is not a specific injury but considered as a group of similar injuries. Remember that these injuries are also called as repetitive stress injuries or overuse syndromes. These are injuries involving the soft tissues linked with prolonged stress on a particular area of the body.

These are also instigated by prolonged activity in a poor posture or misaligned joints. Constant repetition of a particular activity for lengthy periods can lead to repetitive strain injury. Sports that require the same movements quickly are also considered as common causes.

Causes of repetitive strain injury

It is important to note that repetitive stress injury can occur due to prolonged repetitions of a particular movement without getting enough rest or movements performed incorrectly.

Repetitive strain injury
The individual must rest from the activity to stop the repetitive stress on the area.

The stress placed on the muscles, joints and tendons over a period of time without rest can also lead to RSI. Stressing the muscle beyond its accustomed range in any activity can lead to additional stress on the bones and tendons, resulting to injury. In addition, any movement that is performed in an unnatural or awkward manner constantly can lead to injury as well.

Signs and symptoms

Primarily, pain can be felt only during activity. Once the activity is stopped, it will provide relief. Over time, the discomfort will persist even while at rest. With prolonged use and lack of treatment, the pain can become severe, even debilitating.

There is numbness and tingling along with loss of strength and flexibility and swelling in the affected area. The numbness and tingling typically occurs distally from the site of injury.

Compression of the blood vessels or nerves that passes through the site of injury is the usual cause of pain, numbness and tingling. The pain is typically localized to the injury site but can radiate along the extremity over time. The affected muscles can cramp and sensation can be lost or impaired to the affected body part.


The initial step in managing repetitive strain injury is to stop activity. The individual must rest from the activity to stop the repetitive stress on the area. Application of an ice pack or anti-inflammatory medications will help minimize the inflammation in the area.

Stretching and relaxation exercises for the affected area will relieve some of the muscle tension. Take note that massage can also help reduce the muscular tension and pain.

Splinting and physical therapy might be required in some cases to reduce the stress on the tendons and muscles. Surgery is rarely needed but might be required in severe cases in order to alleviate the symptoms and prevent further damage.


The prevention of repetitive stress injury is vital and less costly than treating one. Dealing with the issues that causes this type of injury will help prevent it from occurring.

  • Proper warm-up before an activity will prepare the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones for activity.
  • Certain activities that cause pain or discomfort should be avoided.
  • The muscles and tendons should stay strong and flexible.

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