Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) definition

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are a range of conditions characterised by the pain and inflammation in muscles, nerves and tendons from overuse and repetition of similar movements. RSI affects many of the structures of the upper body including forearms, elbows, wrists, neck and shoulders.

RSI are classified by Type 1 and Type 2 – the former occur when doctors can identify physical etiology for pain, such as inflammation, while the latter occur where pain is the only symptom present. Specific conditions, such as bursitis and tendonitis, are Type 1 types.

As well as repetitive movements, cold temperatures, lack of rest from activity, vibrating equipment such as pneumatic drills and regularly lifting heavy objects with poor posture can cause RSI to surface. Typing is a common cause of RSI, particularly when individuals use poor technique.

Occupational health is concerned with reducing the incidence of RSI in the workplace through training, injury management and early intervention. From an employer’s point of view, workplace risk assessments can help highlight areas of risk for RSI, while individuals can benefit from knowledge and training to help them prevent actions – such as poor posture – that may make them more susceptible to RSI.

Treating RSI is a two-fold process; highlighting and eliminating the cause is key to reduce inflammation and pain. Anti-inflammatories and physical supports, such as limb wraps and cold packs, can help, as can steroid injections to reduce local inflammation.