Understanding the Causes and Treatments of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Repetitive Strain Injury

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a painful condition that is caused by repeatedly using a certain part of the body, and as a result, damaging and causing injury to muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissue.

RSI frequently occurs in the upper limb area, such as the hands, wrist, elbow and forearm. It can also affect the neck, too. The level of pain experienced can also vary from person to person, ranging from intermittent discomfort to continuous aching and soreness.

Common Causes of Repetitive Strain Injury

We've already noted that RSI is caused by repeatedly using a certain part of the body, and as a result, damaging and causing injury to muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissue. Yet, what are some of these "repeated uses"?

For starters, as you may have already guessed from the "R" in the acronym, RSI can be caused by actions that require repetitive movements over time, such as playing golf or tennis, or using a specific machine work.

However, there's also a growing incidence of "sedentary computer use" related to RSI. Those afflicted by this type of injury aren't trying to hit a cross-court winner, or make it on the putting green in two shots. Rather, they're sitting in front of a computer – usually for many hours a day – typing away on a keyboard, and staring at a screen.

Dealing with Repetitive Strain Injury

While proper medical attention and an appropriate Rehab Program (discussed further) are typically required to deal with RSI, there are some key things that you can do right now to reduce your risk and diminish – or possibly even eliminate – your pain. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid performing the same task for more than an hour at a time. Just as thirst is a symptom that your body has already become dehydrated, pain and fatigue are symptoms that an area of your body has become overworked and is vulnerable to injury (or further injury). As a bonus, you may find that alternating tasks can boost your productivity, whether you're raking leaves, working on a machine, or anything else!
  • Improve your posture so that your neck and shoulders are relaxed, your chest is open, and your head can gently look upwards without strain.
  • When using a keyboard, ensure that your wrists are relaxed, in a middle position, and are in a straight line with your forearms. Also remember to keep your wrists at elbow height.
  • Work with an ergonomics expert who can evaluate your workspace and ensure that your desk, chair and all other elements are correctly positioned. Sometimes adding something as simple as a footrest can make a profound, positive difference!
  • Find ways to reduce stress - possibly through better diet, getting more sleep, reducing or eliminating caffeine and refined sugar from your diet – so that you're more relaxed, and putting less pressure on your hard working muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissue.
  • If you are sitting at a computer daily, every 50 minutes do some gentle movement and stretching activities for your shoulders, neck and arms. For example, you can:
    • raise your shoulders to your ears and then rotate them backward and then forwards 3-5 times in each direction;
    • stretch your arms above your head and bend your upper body from side to side;
    • stretch your arms in front of your body and make circles with them.

Repetitive Strain Injury and Acupuncture

Did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) could help diminish and ultimately eliminate RSI-related pain? It's true! TCM views RSI as the result of disrupted flow between the "Qi" (or "life force") and blood. As such, acupuncture points can be stimulated to remove the blockage and enable the flow to an affected area.

While each patient's results will vary, many report a reduction in swelling, inflammation and pain after just one acupuncture session!

Rehabbing a Repetitive Strain Injury

In addition to the lifestyle changes (discussed above), many people will also require a Rehab Program to strengthen their injured area(s), and return to optimal function. While a Rehab Program must be customized for each individual's needs and goals, each should have the following 4 components:

  1. A cardiovascular component to help build towards improved fitness.
  2. A general stretching component to regain flexibility and restore balance to muscles in the body, and especially the injured area.
  3. A muscle balancing component, to ensure that muscles are firing effectively and in sequence.
  4. A strength component, that must be followed regularly 3-4 times/week for 6-8 weeks, and then 2-3 times/week thereafter.

Getting the Answers and Help You Need

At the Advanced Therapeutic Centre, we're more than just a "group of doctors." We're compassionate and caring specialists who are experienced in Acute and Chronic Pain.

Management, and are dedicated to helping patients enjoy the pain-free life they want and deserve as quickly as possible!

We'll work with you to identify the root causes of your injury and pain, help you make little lifestyle changes that lead to big improvements, and create your custom Rehab Program that makes RSI – and pain – a thing of the past.

To learn more or book your 30 minute consultation, call us at (416) 361-9900 during our Centre hours (Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM).

Read other Blogs