Articles, news & insights

Repetitive Strain Injury

3 July 2016 | Marcus Daws | Uncategorised

Several of our patients are being treated for repetitive strain injury – most frequently “tennis elbow and Achilles tendonitis – and others frequently question us about what lies behind “RSI”.  This article aims to provide some basic answers to these queries.

What is it?

Repetitive Stain Injury (RSI) is an ‘umbrella diagnosis’ that accounts for a wide range of musculoskeletal pain disorders as a result of overuse of the body. This is most often experienced in the upper limb due to occupational strain.Also commonly known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS).

The pain is usually a sharp stabbing pain which initially comes on once the aggravating cause has ceased, however this may then go on to ‘flair-up’ more often.

There are many conditions that fall under this term such as Tennis elbow, Carpal tunnel, Thoracic outlet syndrome, Tendonitis and many more.

What is the cause?

When a movement or action is repeated over and over, the tissues of the body become overused and begin to breakdown. This leads to a build-up of inflammation as the body tries to repair the damage. Typical triggers are sporting injuries where an action is constantly repeated, running, swimming, serving a tennis ball can all trigger these conditions. Hobbies such as playing the guitar, fly-fishing, you name it! However the most common cause of RSI in the modern age is overuse due to occupational strain and the biggest culprit of all is the laptop computer.

What’s the solution?

The most important element of the healing process is rest to allow the body to heal the tissue; however the dilemma faced by most patients is how to recover from an injury such as this when the causative factor is the one which puts food on the table. Other adjunctive treatment methods are cryotherapy (ice therapy) to reduce the inflammation and manual therapy such as osteopathy, physiotherapy, acupuncture. Others methods include joint splints or forearm compression bandages to alleviate the pressure on the muscle insertion point.

How can I prevent it from happening?

For many office-bound people, inevitably the bulk of the day is spent on a laptop but this needn’t be a guarantee that you will be affected by RSI.

  • Seek advice on correct setup of your workstation, not just a home office but ensure you can adapt this when working onsite.
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if some are just 2 minute breaks to stretch the arms, shoulders and back.
  • Maintain good hydration at all time. You should be aiming for 1.5 – 2 litres of water each day, tea and coffee are diuretics which lead to an increased expulsion of water from the body, leading to dehydration
  • A well balanced natural diet which avoids refined and processed foods and include plenty of fruit and vegetable is vital for promoting tissue health
  • Keep good posture, this is important at all times but especially when at your desk as long period in a poor position (typically slumped) will lead to poor circulation and nerve conduction and increase the risk of developing RSI
  • Regular exercise is essential for muscle health, 30 minutes of walking a day is a great boost for circulation and will improve overall health in many ways.
  • Manual Therapy is a great way to keep muscles and joint moving correctly; a regular Osteopathic maintenance treatment will help.