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what is rsi

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an injury of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression (pressing against hard surfaces), or sustained or awkward positions.

It is usually related to a job or occupation, but leisure activities can also be a cause. Unlike a 'normal' strain following a sudden injury, symptoms of RSI can persist well beyond the time it would take symptoms of a 'normal' strain to ease.

Types of RSIs that affect computer users may include non-specific arm pain or work related upper limb disorder (WRULD). Conditions such as RSI tend to be associated with both physical and psychosocial stressors.

RSI can be classified into two main categories - Type 1 and Type 2 RSI.

Type 1 RSI

This includes well defined syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and compression of the median nerve in the wrist), tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon), tenosynovitis (inflammation of the lining of a tendon) etc. These conditions may be due to, or be made worse by, repetitive tasks. These syndromes may have other symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, nerve compression problems, etc.

Type 2 RSI

This is where symptoms do not fit into a well defined syndrome. Also, there are no specific signs such as inflammation, swelling or problems with nerve function. It is sometimes called diffuse RSI.

It is also known as repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CT), occupational overuse syndrome, overuse syndrome, regional musculoskeletal disorder.


What causes RSI?

Causes of repetitive strain injuries

There are numerous reasons why a repetitive strain injury incidence may manifest itself, both physical and mental. On this page we will firstly list the general causes of repetitive strain injuries as a whole and secondly we will break down the causes of repetitive strain injuries on a per category of injury basis.

General causes of repetitive strain injuries

A non-exhaustive list of contributory factors towards the emergence of repetitive strain injuries is as follows

  • Overuse of the muscles on a continued repetitive basis
  • Cold temperatures
  • Use of vibrating equipment
  • Forceful activities
  • Poor posture
  • A badly designed work area
  • Holding the same posture on a continually for a lengthy period of time
  • Lengthy periods of work without a break
  • Stress in the workplace
  • Direct trauma or an injury to the body
  • Carrying heavy loads on a repeatedly


Do I have an RSI?

Anyone can develop an RSI. This can be caused by any repetitive activity. It usually occurs in the hand, arm or shoulder and is usually caused by activities at work, but can also be caused by sports.

If you are experiencing pains in your muscles, tendons or nerves of the neck, shoulder, forearm and hand which seem to be aggravated following computer use then you may well have the early symptoms of RSI.

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January 2013

Professor Kochhar is proud to be included as the only shoulder surgeon in the 2013 Tatler Doctor's Guide

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December 2012

Running Fitness Magazine article on Building upper body strength

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November 2012

Muscle and Fitness magazine: Tony Kochhar's article on How to avoid shoulder injuries in the gym

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September 2012

Read all about baby wrist and RSI in pregnancy

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June 2012

Ella Magazine's article on back pain and injuires

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March 2012

Tony Kochhar's latest article in the Evening Standard on iPad shoulder and other RSI's

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