Repetitive Stress Injuries

What is repetitive strain injury?

A repetitive strain injury (RSI), sometimes referred to as repetitive stress injury, is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities, including:

  • Using a computer mouse
  • Typing
  • Swiping items at a supermarket checkout
  • Grasping tools
  • Working on an assembly line
  • Training for sports
Some common RSIs are:
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bursitis
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Tennis elbow
Keep reading to learn more about this type of injury.

What are the symptoms of RSI?

RSI frequently affects your:

  • Wrists and hands
  • Forearms and elbows
  • Neck and shoulders
Other areas of your body can also be affected.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat
Symptoms may begin gradually and then become constant and more intense. Even with initial treatment, symptoms may limit your ability to perform your usual activities.

What are the causes and risk factors for RSI?

RSI can occur when you do repetitive movements. Those movements can cause your muscles and tendons to become damaged over time.

Some activities that can increase your risk for RSI are:

  • Stressing the same muscles through repetition
  • Maintaining the same posture for long periods of time
  • Maintaining an abnormal posture for an extended period of time, such as holding your arms over your head
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Being in poor physical condition or not exercising enough
Previous injuries or conditions, such as a rotator cuff tear or an injury to your wrist, back, or shoulder, can also predispose you to RSI.

Desk jobs are not the only occupations whose workers are at risk for RSI. Other occupations that involve repetitive movements and may increase your risk include:

  • Dental hygienists
  • Construction workers who use power tools
  • Cleaners
  • Cooks
  • Bus drivers
  • Musicians