RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

Repetitive strain injuries can keep you from working or doing the things you love. MaineHealth providers are skilled in diagnosing repetitive strain injuries (RSI). They partner with patients in developing effective treatment plans.

What are repetitive strain injuries?

Repetitive strain injuries refer to the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by overuse and doing the same movements over and over again. Types of repetitive strain injuries include

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Bursitis

  • Tendinitis

Repetitive strain injuries usually affect the upper body, such as the forearms, elbow, wrists, hands, neck and shoulders. They can also affect the back, hips and knees.

Repetitive strain injury causes

Repetitive strain injuries are caused by repetitive activity or periods of high-intensity activity for a long time without resting. Other common causes include:

  • Poor posture

  • Activities that require you to work in an awkward or uncomfortable position

  • Frequent, uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or movement

  • Unnatural motions such as twisting or overexertion

  • Muscle fatigue

Repetitive strain injury symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms of repetitive strain injuries are dependent on the severity of the strain and the part of the  body affected. Some repetitive strain injury symptoms include:

  • Pain

  • Aching

  • Swelling

  • Redness

  • Tenderness

  • Stiffness

  • Throbbing

  • Tingling sensation

  • Weakness

  • Cramping

  • Loss of motion or flexibility

Repetitive strain injuries are usually diagnosed based on medical history and a physical exam. Imaging tests, such as an MRI, may be helpful in confirming a diagnosis, as they can give detailed images of any tears, ruptures, inflammation or other problems.

Repetitive strain injury treatment

Treatment for repetitive strain injuries involve identifying and reducing the activity or motion that is causing pain and symptoms. Some treatment methods may include:

  • Using a splint to relieve pressure on the affected muscles and nerves

  • Adjusting one’s workspace to improve body positioning while working

  • Medicine, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers or painkillers, and cortisone

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation

  • Applying heat or ice to the affected area

  • Physical therapy to learn proper posture, strengthen muscles and relieve pain

  • Surgery may be necessary in rare cases to prevent permanent damage

Repetitive strain injury prevention

Taking preventive measures can reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

  • Perform proper warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after physical activity.

  • Set up work spaces for proper body positioning

  • Avoid activities that cause pain or flare-up.

  • Use splints or bands to eliminate strain during activity.

  • Stretch before activity that may cause strain.

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