Do I Have a Repetetive Strain Injury?

If have no history of having sustained trauma but still have pain in your hands, arms, or shoulders; you could be suffering from a repetitive strain injury.

What Is A Repetitive Strain Injury?

A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a broad term used for a variety of conditions that are caused by repetitive movements of parts of the body that cause a gradual build-up of damage to muscles tendons and nerves. It can affect any part of the body but is most commonly: shoulders, elbows, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. Examples of RSI’s include: carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, DeQuervains Tenosynovitis, trigger finger.

What Are The Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury?

You may experience all or only a few of the symptoms below. The onset of the symptoms is often gradual and usually get worse over time. The symptoms can be constant or only experienced intermittently, but they are usually worse during or following certain activities. Some people complain of periodic “flare-up” of symptoms with long periods of being symptom free in between “flares.”

  • Pain (often described as throbbing, burning, or aching)
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling, numbness, pins and needles
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling
  • Heat / Cold sensitivity

What Causes Repetitive Strain Injury?

Any repetitive movement of a body part and/or poor/awkward posture can cause a repetitive strain injury. Some common activities that can cause repetitive strain include:

  • Using a computer for extended periods (this can be from using the mouse or typing)

  • Grasping power tools

  • Working on an assembly line

  • Training for sports

  • Playing a musical instrument

It is important to note that many people have been doing the same job/activities for years and never develop a repetitive strain injury. So simply having a job that has repetitive movements is not a guarantee that you will develop pain; there are other factors such as age, health status and lifestyle that influence your risk.

How is it diagnosed?

A thorough discussion with a doctor or trained therapist around your symptoms, your job and activities that may aggravate your symptoms; combined with a physical examination are usually sufficient to diagnose the problem. In some cases it may be advised to get additional imaging testing such as x-rays, ultrasound, MRI, or electromyography (EMG) to test for nerve damage.

How is it treated?

  • Occupational Therapy can assist with managing your symptoms and help with identifying things that may be causing your pain. They will tailor a programme that suites you and your symptoms.
  • In severe cases and cases where therapy has failed, surgery may be an option. The type of surgery will vary depending on the particular type of RSI.
  • If you are experiencing pain, it is advised that you seek medical help. The earlier you seek treatment, the better chance you have getting your symptoms under control and making a full recovery.

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