Repetitive stress injury (RSI), also known as repetitive strain injury, is the pain and discomfort derived from repeatedly moving body parts in such a way that is unnatural. In other words, repeatedly contorting your elbows, wrists, knees, etc. results in a build-up of damage to tendons, nerves, and muscles.
This can happen over a period of time and can be related to any type of activity, including typing, clicking, swiping, using tools, playing sports, exercising, etc.
Most repetitive stress injury symptoms will typically subside over time. It is recommended that for a speedier recovery, you cease the repetitive activity. We are going to go over the different types of RSI, their remedies, and preventative measures.
Causes of repetitive strain injury
It’s important to identify the repetitive activity that is causing your RSI in order to address it. Most people who have RSI symptoms can usually identify the root cause pretty easily. For instance:
- If you spend all day typing, you may start to feel discomfort or pain in your fingers, hands, wrist, or arm.
- Perhaps you’re participating in athletic activities that require a lot of repetitive motions, such as running, swimming, tennis, or golf.
- Even a non-ergonomic workplace setup can cause RSI.
- A lot of repetitive strain injuries can be caused by poor posture while standing or sitting at work, home, or school.
Different types of repetitive strain injuries
Although you can suffer from RSI in just about any part of your body, there are some common types of repetitive stress injuries. Each one of these types of injuries will result in discomfort or pain, making repetitive activities very difficult, if not impossible, to continue.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This is probably the most common RSI, as it affects large swaths of office workers who type and move a mouse all day. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by swelling in the wrist, resulting in the compression of the median nerve. Symptoms typically include pain in the wrist, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected hand. Remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome may include using a splint to reduce your hand’s range of motion, cold compresses to reduce swelling, anti-inflammatory medication, and sometimes surgery.
Bursitis happens when fluid-filled sacs that cushion joints, called bursae, become inflamed. Bursitis can cause pain and discomfort in the affected areas; typically the hips, elbows, knees, and shoulders. With rest, the symptoms typically subside on their own. If the pain and discomfort persists, you can use a cold compress or anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the symptoms.
Tendinopathy, also known as tendonitis, is the inflammation or swelling of tendons, the connective tissue between bones and muscles. Depending on where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, you could be suffering from a different type of tendonitis. A few common types of tendonitis include rotator cuff tendinitis, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow, Achilles tendinitis, jumper’s knee, and swimmer’s shoulder.
How to prevent repetitive stress injuries
While some repetitive activities are unavoidable, usually due to the activities’ being a part of job responsibilities, there are ways to prevent injuries. It is recommended that no matter the setting or activity, regular stretching and breaks will go a long way in preventing RSI. Splints and braces can help reduce motion of commonly affected areas, and the added pressure helps reduce inflammation.
In the office
Invest in an ergonomic keyboard to save your fingers, hands, and wrists from repetitive stress injuries. Non-ergonomic keyboards do not conform to individual body shapes, which leads to wrist injuries over time. But an ergonomic keyboard can be adjusted to different styles of typing, which will help you prevent RSI symptoms such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
A good ergonomic mouse will help reduce pain, reduce motion, and improve general comfort. Be sure to select an ergonomic mouse that fits your hand, whether you’re right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous.
The chairs provided by your organization probably don’t offer much in the way of comfort. Adjustable ergonomic chairs with proper padding can promote good posture, help with blood flow, and improve general comfort.
Sitting all day has several added health risks, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. An adjustable standing desk can give your body variety in your posture to be more comfortable and avoid those additional health risks.
Voice-to-text can help reduce the amount of typing you have to do by enabling you to dictate emails, documents, and chats. There are tons of apps and browser extensions that provide this functionality.
Working with tools
Whether you’re working with hammers or wrenches, being aware of the way in which you’re using your tools can help prevent RSI symptoms. There have been a lot of technological improvements in tool designs that help ease the strain caused by repetitive use.
Alternate between different athletic activities when creating your fitness routine. Too much of one exercise or improper technique can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Stretch and properly warm up before doing any strenuous activities. Exercise is, if done right, a great way to keep joints mobile and muscles healthy.