RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury


What is RSI?

RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is really an umbrella term for a group of conditions which can affect the muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues of the body.

The most vulnerable body areas include the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and neck, which are subjected to regular overuse, and can be further damaged by poor posture, twisting, cold, vibration and stress.

However, although commonly thought of as an upper body condition, any part of the body that is subjected to overuse is vulnerable to developing an RSI-type condition.

Tension in the shoulders, stiffness in the neck, or upper back pain with associated headaches, can develop from a strain of the muscles which attach into the spine, and a shortening of the muscles attaching into the anterior chest wall. Maintaining a poor posture for many years can lead to an exaggerated back curve which can, in turn, lead to disc inflammation in the back and even compress the rib cage.

RSI is most often associated with computer use
RSI is most often associated with computer use


How is RSI diagnosed?

There are several medical conditions and injuries that can be classed as Type 1 RSI, including the following. If you receive any of these diagnoses from your consultant, physical therapy will, in most cases, provide an improvement to the pain and discomfort experienced, and with maintenance, prevent further damage.
  • Bursitis: inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sac near joints of the knee, elbow or shoulder
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pressure on the median nerve passing through the wrist
  • Dupuytren's contracture: a thickening of deep tissue in the palm of the hand and into the fingers
  • Epicondylitis: inflammation of an area where bone and tendon join. Examples of epicondylitis include tennis elbow and golfers elbow
  • Rotator cuff syndrome: inflammation of muscles and tendons in the shoulder
  • Tendinitis: inflammation of a tendon
  • Tenosynovitis: inflammation of the inner lining of the tendon sheath that houses tendons. Tenosynovitis most commonly occurs in the hand, wrist or forearms
  • Ganglion cyst: a sac of fluid that forms around a joint or tendon, usually on the wrist or fingers
  • Raynaud's phenomenon: a condition where the blood supply to extremities, such as the fingers, is interrupted
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome: compression of the nerves or blood vessels that run between the base of the neck and the armpit
  • Writer's cramp: part of a family of disorders known as dystonia that cause muscle spasms in the affected part of the body. Writer's cramp occurs from overuse of the hands and arms


What can cause RSI?

Almost any repetitive patterns of behaviour can lead to a weakening of the muscles. Most commonly associated with the term RSI is computer operation, particularly the use of a mouse and typing, but many other scenario's will result in damage and pain, such as playing sports that involve gripping a bat or club, playing musical instruments, especially the piano, wood and wind instruments, and nowadays the extreme use of mobile phones, hand held devices and laptops.

Increasingly the younger generation risk long term future problems from computer gaming for hours on laptops, and the excessive use of equipment such as Blackberry's, incorporated with poor posture and lack of exercise.


How can Osteopathy help?

Osteopathy helps relieve RSI pain Osteopathy involves treatment of the joints, in order to restore them to their normal positions and normal levels of mobility, and to relieve tension in muscles and ligaments. A lot of the treatment for RSI relates to the spinal column, especially the upper back and neck, through which control of the blood and nerve supply to the limbs passes.

Treatment will usually involve a combination of soft tissue techniques for muscles, massage, spinal mobilisation techniques, neural tissue mobilisation and postural muscle strengthening, with gentle releasing techniques.

The objective is twofold, to identify the tissues under "repetitive" strain and treat the symptoms, but also to determine the underlying cause, and discuss ways to reduce, alter or affect that, so the potential for reoccurrence is minimal.


How can Acupuncture help?

Acupuncture helps relieve pain caused by RSI The basis of Acupuncture is different from that of conventional medicine. Symptoms of illness are regarded as signs that the individual energy or life force, known as Qi, is out of balance. The aim of Acupuncture is to restore this balance and promote general well-being.

Treatment of RSI type conditions would usually involve manipulation of needles, or electrical stimulation, of tender points along the meridians, many of which coincide with myofascial trigger points. This treatment has the effect of releasing tension and resolving pain. The success of the treatment for RSI type conditions varies. For some individuals, it can be an effective painkiller, however it may not work for others.


How can Trigger Point Therapy help?

Trigger Point Therapy helps with the symptoms of RSI Trigger points are areas of muscle fibres within a muscle, which the brain has decided need to be contracted - switched 'on' and shortened. They occur through accidents, falls, injuries, repetitive strain, overuse of muscles and poor posture. 'Active' trigger points refer pain constantly, whereas 'latent' trigger points can be triggered by seemingly innocuous movements, or from poor posture, and thereby become 'active'.

Active trigger points are often surrounded by other secondary trigger points which develop when the sufferer has tried to either strengthen or stretch the area to get rid of the pain or restriction. Attempts to strengthen or stretch will be unsuccessful until the trigger point, and the surrounding fascia, are released.

The pain that trigger points produce is similar to the pain of fascial restrictions - numbness, tingling, sharp, burning, deep or dull pain. Pain from trigger points can also move location from day to day or feel different from one day to the next.

Treatment with Trigger Point Therapy will involve releasing the active trigger points which could be contributing to, or causing the pain, using manual methods of myofascial release. This will relieve the local restrictions and allow free movement to return to the muscle. If the fascial restrictions and adhesions are not released, trigger points can return.


What information is available?

  • Guardian: Acupuncture may ease pain by triggering release of natural painkiller
  • London Evening Standard article supporting the use of complimentary therapies
  • RSI Action release media article entitled 'RSI can be cured'
  • All three therapies we use to treat RSI are listed as beneficial on the FAQ's website
  • RSIA report evidence of successful therapies


Where can you find us?

Our clinics in Cambridgeshire and London offer Acupuncture, Osteopathy, Naturopathy, Trigger Point Therapy, Sports Injury and Deep Tissue Massage treatments for an extensive range of conditions.

Our Sawtry clinic covers a wide area from Peterborough to Huntingdon and St. Neots, while at the Steeple Morden clinic we receive patients from Baldock and Royston, plus Ashwell and all over North Herts.

From Deeping St James, our most rural clinic attracts patients from Stamford, Spalding and Peterborough.