What is RSI?

RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury occurs when the same activity is repeated many times over, causing the muscles to be tense for long periods of time. The repeated strain causes a slow degree of damage to the tissues. The term RSI came into use after the widespread problems that were becoming common in the elbows of computer users.

RSI is difficult to settle but early treatment achieves better results.


Causes of RSI

Computers and RSI

    • Prolonged use of the mouse and keyboard tightens the extensor muscles of the wrist. These muscles pull on the tendon insertion area at the elbow, causing pain and inflammation. This condition is often called lateral epicondylitis.

Sports and RSI

    • The shared tendon of the wrist extensor muscles attach onto the outer part of the elbow. When injured with repetitive activity, the resulting condition is referred to as ‘Tennis Elbow‘ or lateral epicondylitisThis often occurs in sports such as tennis and table tennis.
    • Ten pin bowlers often aggravate the ligaments around the wrist.
    • Shooters often aggravate the ligaments at the base of the thumb.

Other Causes

Not all RSI is associated with work and sport. Other examples include:

    • The repetitive use of a Rubik’s Cube for ‘speedcubing’ (the activity of solving a Rubik’s Cube as quickly as possible) causes tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel type symptoms in the wrist.
    • An increase in ‘texting’ on mobile phones can result in pain and swelling of the tendons at the base of the thumb and wrist. This is becoming common in younger children addicted to technology.
    • In the past, gamekeepers, who worked on estates, were responsible for wringing the necks of fowls and game. This repetitive action brought on a chronic strain of the ligament at the base of the thumb and was called ‘Gamekeepers Thumb’ – rarely seen today.


RSI can cause inflammation of a tendon (tendonitis) which may lead to the body adopting compensatory actions as a way of avoiding use of the injured area. These compensatory actions can in turn cause muscle weakening or over-use and joint tightness in other areas of the body. RSI injuries settle best if treated promptly before compensatory patterns develop.


Treatment of RSI

Because RSI can have many contributing factors, treatment is not the same from patient to patient. Our treatment of RSI begins with an assessment of the condition – is it in acute, inflammatory or chronic stage?

Our treatment will proceed according to the stage of RSI and may include:

  • ice
  • ultrasound
  • soft tissue releases
  • passive or active stretches
  • joint mobilisations
  • use of a brace
  • alteration of activities
  • adjustments of techniques (sport) or positioning (work).