Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a collective name for non-specific symptoms and syndromes that occur in the upper back, neck and shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers. The symptoms are usually caused by repetitive movements, prolonged static posture or a combination of both. The condition occurs in many professions.
RSI symptoms occur during repetitive movements, in which tendons rub over bones and through tendon sheaths. There may also be pressure on nerves and muscles. This can lead to inflammation in muscles, tendons or joints. Waste from the muscles are not drained sufficiently, resulting in pain. A natural response to pain is an increased muscle tension, thereby moving less and restricting the blood flow even more. This creates a vicious circle.
Risk factors include:
- Higher age.
- Previous symptoms and/or other disorders.
- Increased muscle tone.
- Incorrect working posture, static posture.
- Repetitive movements.
- Low job satisfaction.
- Prolonged (work) stress and high workload.
- Personal factors, such as perfectionism.
Signs and symptoms that can occur with RSI are:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder muscles or the muscles of forearms, wrists and/or hands.
- Radiating pain in the arms and hands.
- Tingling in hands and/or fingers.
- Cold, clammy hands.
- Inflammation in muscles, tendons, tendon sheaths and tendon attachments.
- Tired feeling in the arms.
RSI doesn’t arise from one day to another. It starts with minor symptoms, but is often getting worse.
In order to make the diagnosis of RSI, the doctor will do physical examination and optionally additional examination, based on the symptoms. This is to exclude other possible physical conditions, such as neck hernia. If no other cause can be found, the symptoms are non-specific and there is RSI.
It is not easy to choose a good treatment for a non-specific symptom, in other words a symptom without apparent cause. It’s important to tighten muscles in a proper way and also to relax them well again.
To learn this, some people benefit from remedial therapy. This treatment depends on how a person copes with his symptoms. First, one will learn to apply the information in a practice situation, and then in everyday life, in particular during work. One also learns how to deal with stress and receives information about the role of stress.
Sometimes, it makes sense to start a multidisciplinary treatment. This could be a psychologist or a social worker (to adequately handle pain), a rehabilitation specialist and an occupational therapist (for ergonomic adjustments). In the context of a possible reintegration in the labor process, it’s important that the general practitioner, the (company) physical therapist, remedial therapist and the company doctor communicate well with each other.
What treatment (or no treatment) suits someone, can only be experienced by the patient himself.
Some people are doing well, but others continue to have symptoms. The longer the symptoms exist and the more severe they are, the harder it will be to do something about it. It will always remain a weakness in everyone.
- Watch the body posture. A good relaxed posture is important, just like alternating posture.
- Take regular breaks and do no more computer work than five to six hours a day.
- Alternate the activities.
- Ensure a positive atmosphere at work.
- Pay attention to the height of the chair, desk and monitor and the distance to the monitor. Adjust the furniture if necessary.