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Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Last updated: December 15, 2019

What Does Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Mean?

A repetitive strain injury (RSI) refers to a broad category of injuries including aches, pain, stiffness, tingling, numbness or cramp in any part of the upper body caused by repetitive tasks, overuse, forceful exertions, vibrations or poor working posture. RSI includes work-related upper limb disorders, occupational overuse injuries, repetitive stress or motion injuries, musculoskeletal disorders or cumulative trauma disorders. Most often, RSI affects the arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, necks and shoulders.

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Safeopedia Explains Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Repetitive strain injuries are associated with repeated activities for a prolong period of time. These can include:

  • Intensive activity of a repetitive nature for an extended period of time without rest or a break
  • Poor posture while working or sitting, especially in confined spaces that require an individual to remain in an awkward position for a long period of time
  • Intense stress on body parts including overuse and forceful exertion
  • Working in cold weather may aggravate the signs and symptoms of RSIs

RSI are treated by identifying, ceasing or modifying the activity that is responsible for the symptoms. Imaging techniques such as x-ray and MRI are effective in finding nerve compressions. Anti-inflammatory medication, painkillers, heat or cold packs, elastic support or splints are used as treatment methods in cases of an RSI. A physiotherapist may suggest appropriate therapy, such as massage, yoga, osteopathy and work with patients to improve sitting posture to relieve symptoms.

Employers are legally bound to provide prevention methods of work-related RSIs and improve workplace ergonomics. An ergonomic risk assessment may help to improve the risk of occupational RSIs. RSIs can best be prevented through training and supervision.


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