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Common Conditions

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)


A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) or sometimes referred to as repetitive stress injury is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons and nerves from repetitive motions. RSI may be caused by many different types of activities. Activities that can increase the 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, 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 the wrist, back, or shoulder can also predispose one to RSI. Some common RSIs are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Tennis Elbow.

RSI frequently affects the wrists and hands, forearms and elbows, neck and shoulders. Symptoms may begin gradually and then become constant and more intense. Symptoms of RSI are pain ranging from mild to severe, tenderness, swelling, stiffness, numbness, throbbing, weakness and sensitivity to cold or heat.

If a repetitive strain injury is suspected, resting the affected joint by avoiding the movement that is causing the pain is an important step that starts the healing process. In addition, physical therapy is helpful in treating RSIs. Personalized exercises that are guided by a physical therapist can help improve repetitive strain injuries by helping nerves, muscles, or tendons that have been injured to heal properly. Apart from manual therapy and exercise recommendations, your therapist will also provide modifications for work desk station to allow better posture and functional training to minimize muscle strain. If in doubt, seek professional advice.