Repetitive Strain Injury | Causes and Symptoms| Part 1

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Welcome to this three-part blog on Repetitive Strain Injury, causes, symptoms and natural treatment. Here in part one we cover what exactly is repetitive strain injury, what causes it and what the symptoms are.
In part 2, we cover some natural treatment ideas and stretch techniques to ease the symptoms.
For Part 3 we’ll cover herbs and products to help naturally treat RSI and reduce the symptoms.

Let’s get to it!

What is Repetitive Strain Injury

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

The term Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI encompasses a variety of conditions that cause pain in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and joints of the body. The term is a pretty collective one for physical pain experienced most commonly in the hands and wrists, but also in the neck, shoulders, arms and elbows.
You may have heard of tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome, for example. These are two very common types of RSI.

The wrist is particularly prone to RSI as it is a flexible joint and bears much of the strain we put through our hands, arms and shoulders.
With the widespread use of computers at home and work, it’s perhaps the most common joint affected nowadays.

RSI is a progressive disorder, meaning the longer you wait for treatment, the longer the recovery will take. That’s why it’s so important to notice the symptoms and adjust your lifestyle appropriately to prevent it from worsening. Unfortunately, it’s still not understood why some people are more prone to RSI than others doing the same tasks.

Causes of Repetitive Strain Injury | typing on a computer

What Causes Repetitive Strain Injury?

RSI is not something that happens after a single traumatic event such as falling off your bike or spraining your ankle. Generally, RSI is caused by overusing a limb or joint or performing a repeated movement over a period of time. For example, sitting hunched over at a desk and using a mouse for several hours a day or typing.

Although that’s a common example, RSI can affect anyone who makes frequent, repetitive movements, whether at work or in their free time.
If you’re working with vibrating heavy machinery, computers or lifting heavy things regularly, you may be at risk of developing RSI. Equally, if you play tennis, knit for hours or play on game consoles/smartphone for long periods of time, that’s also a risk factor.

Here are some factors that may contribute to the development of RSI:

  • making repetitive moments such as pushing, pulling, twisting, lifting, reaching, squeezing and, hammering
  • Working for long periods without breaks
  • Holding the same posture for long periods
  • Poor posture (which worsens RSI if your muscles are tense)
  • Sitting or working in uncomfortable or awkward postures
  • Using poorly designed equipment for the required job
  • Badly organised working environments
  • Cold temperatures
  • Fatigue
  • Stress – interestingly enough, RSI is more common among people experiencing stress.
symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury | prolonged repetitive activity e.g using smartphone

What are the Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury?

Symptoms tend to develop over a period of time rather than suddenly appearing. In fact, it’s often said that RSI is a three-stage disorder.

Initially, you might experience symptoms that are only noticeable when you’re carrying out a specific movement or task. After you’ve finished, the symptoms disappear.

After some time, stage two creeps in. You might find that these early symptoms worsen during the same task or movement and develop further, causing prolonged pain, even after you’ve finished the task. The pain might actually move to other places and take longer to go.

And thirdly, the pain and additional symptoms are almost always there. Task or no task, the feeling is constant and may even be demobilizing. Again, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome are very common examples here.

Additionally, RSI injuries are often coupled with inflammation, pain, redness, swelling, and eventually, limited movement, especially at stage three.

Repetitive Strain Injury aches and pains in wrist

The most common symptoms of RSI include:

  • Aches
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Tingling
  • A feeling of restlessness in the joint
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness
  • tightness
  • Weakness
  • Throbbing
  • Cramp
  • Difficulty with everyday activities, e.g. opening doors, chopping vegetables, turning on a tap.

If left untreated, the symptoms of RSI are likely to worsen. Therefore, it’s highly advisable to seek treatment as early as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to treat.  

To continue learning more about Repetitive Strain Injury and some natural treatments, have a read of Part 2 and 3 here.

Emily Nöth

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