Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Repetitive Strain Injury RSI

What is RSI, who’s at risk and how to treat and prevent it.

What is RSI?

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse.
It most frequently affects the upper limbs and it is classified as a work-related non-specific limb pain.
Patients usually report pain on:

  • forearms and elbows
  • wrists and hands
  • neck and shoulders

RSI symptoms can include headache, tenderness, stiffness, cramping, weakness, throbbing, tingling and numbness.
Swelling can also occur over the affected area when the condition is well established but at early stages symptoms tend to appear only while carrying out specific repetitive actions.

Who is at risk of developing RSI?

Desk bound workers are the most at risk category due to the amount of computer/laptop keyboard and/or telephone work involved.

What predisposes you to RSI?

  • Repetitive manual activities
  • High-intensity activity for a long time without rest
  • Activities that require you to work in an awkward position
  • Cold working environment (not emotionally of course!!)
  • Vibrating equipment
  • Stress

How is RSI treated?

The first thing to do if you have RSI is to address your working environment to prevent this from getting any worse. This process is called ergonomic workstation assessment and it is carried out by a specifically trained physiotherapist, occupational therapist or osteopath who will be able to advise on structural changes to be made to your desk and/or equipment. It is expensive so get your HR department to pay for it.  After all you deserve it because you work hard.

You might also find it helpful to take some painkillers, your GP will be able to prescribe some to you. However, you should probably make your way to a physiotherapist or an osteopath as soon as possible.

How can physiotherapy and osteopathy help?

  • Your physiotherapist or osteopath will be able to diagnose RSI by clinically examine you
  • They will provide you with manual treatment which aims to relieve your pain by stretching your muscles and mobilising the affected joints
  • They will prescribe an adequate home exercise program for you to follow to prevent worsening of the symptoms and promote a speedy recovery
  • They will advise you on postural control and awareness
  • They will be able to give you a prognosis and set your expectations on a realistic target.

How to prevent RSI?

If you think you are in an “at risk” category for developing RSI, following are simple things that you can do to prevent it from affecting you;

  • maintain good posture at work – see how to sit at a desk correctly
  • take regular breaks from long or repetitive tasks – it’s better to take smaller, more frequent breaks than one long lunch break
  • try relaxation techniques if you’re stressed
  • book an appointment with a physiotherapist or an osteopath to seek advice and check the state of your muscles and joints.
  • remember … prevention is always better than cure!

Our highly experienced team of multi-disciplinary practitioners at Kennington are on hand to advise and help with any issues you may have with regards to RSI amongst other things. Please get in touch if you would like to know more on 02077356813.


If you’re not sure whether we can help, please give us a call on 020 7735 6813 or email