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RSI: A Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury


Repetitive stress injury (also known as Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI) describes numerous painful conditions of your muscles, soft tissues and tendons. It is usually related to overusing your forearm, hand and wrist while doing repetitive tasks at work.


Usually your symptoms will develop in your arm, hand or wrist, as these are the body parts that are most commonly used to do repetitive tasks. For this reason, computer operators, such as typists, and musicians are most commonly affected. The following symptoms are typically a part of RSI:

  • Numbness, pain, stiffness, swelling, throbbing or tingling in your joints or muscles.
  • Discomfort while doing repetitive tasks, ceasing whenever the task ends.
  • If your hand is the area that is affected, then you may lose sensation or strength therein.


Unfortunately, there are no tests that can be used to diagnose RSI. Often times, this injury is diagnosed solely on the fact that the symptoms develop during a repetitive task and then disappear once the task ends.  However, differential diagnosis (a systematic way in which to diagnose a disorder that doesn't have any unique symptoms or signs) can be used to diagnose the different types of RSI such as Achilles tendon injuries, ankle degeneration, carpel tunnel syndrome, elbow degeneration, knee degeneration, neck pain and tendonitis.


As with most types of injuries, the best treatment for RSI is actually prevention. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Set up your office according to the principles of ergonomics.
  • Make sure that while at your desk you maintain good posture.
  • Take plenty of breaks to stretch during repetitive tasks.

Designing an Ergonomic Home Office

Since an ergonomic office is an important part of helping you not develop RSI in the first place, here are some tips to keep in mind when designing your home office:

  • Use a keyboard that is split in the middle as this will allow your hands to be in a more natural position.
  • Make sure your chair is comfortable, sturdy and helps you sit properly.
  • Your desk should be at the correct height based upon both your height and chair.
  • Get a monitor that reduces glare and clearly displays the font.


During its early stages, RSI is very treatable. However, any delay in treatment can set your recovery time back several weeks, and in worst cases, several years. Treatment is aimed at easing your pain and enabling the return of both your strength and mobility. For this reason, the following techniques are oftentimes used:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage to relax the muscles
  • Swimming
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

Most work at home moms who suffer from RSI notice that it will usually start with wrist pain. However, if it is left untreated, it can often get worse. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor if you think that you may have RSI.

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