Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Treating and preventing repetitive strain injury

Written by Rob Allport   Posted in:Sports Injury   June 9, 2008

Several of our patients are being treated for Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI for short) – most frequently tennis elbow and achilles tendonitis – and other patients often ask us about what lies behind RSI. Today’s post aims to provide some basic answers to these queries.

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Repetitive Stain Injury is an “umbrella diagnosis” that accounts for a wide range of musculoskeletal pain disorders as a result of overuse of the body. This is most often experienced in the arm due to occupational strain.

(Musculoskeletal = bones / muscles / tendons)

The pain is usually a sharp stabbing pain which initially comes on once the aggravating cause has ceased, however this may then go on to flair-up more often. There are many conditions that fall under this term such as Tennis elbow, Carpal tunnel, Thoracic outlet syndrome, Tendonitis and many more.

What is the cause?

When a movement or action is repeated over and over, the tissues of the body become overused and begin to break down. This leads to a build-up of inflammation as the body tries to repair the damage. Typical triggers are sporting injuries where an action is constantly repeated, for example running, swimming, serving a tennis ball can all trigger these conditions. Also, hobbies such as playing the guitar, fly-fishing, you name it! However, the most common cause of RSI in the modern age is overuse due to occupational strain and the biggest culprit of all is the computer keyboard – especially laptop computers.

How to fix/cure RSI

The most important element of the healing process is rest to allow the body to heal the tissue; however the dilemma faced by most patients is how to recover from an injury such as this when the causative factor is the one which puts food on the table. Other treatment methods are cryotherapy (using ice/cold water to help heal sprains) to reduce the inflammation and manual therapy such as osteopathy, physiotherapy and acupuncture.

Others methods involve applying a joint splint or forearm compression bandages to alleviate the pressure on the muscle insertion point.

How can I prevent Repetitive Strain Injury?

For many office-bound people, inevitably the bulk of the day is spent on a laptop but this needn’t be a guarantee that you will be affected by RSI.

  • Seek advice on correct setup of your workstation, both at work and at home;
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if some are just 2 minute breaks, to stretch the arms, shoulders and back;
  • Maintain good hydration at all time: you should be aiming for 1.5 to 2 litres of water each day. Tea and coffee are diuretics which lead to an increased expulsion of water from the body, leading to dehydration;
  • Ensure a well balanced natural diet which avoids refined and processed foods and includes plenty of fruit and vegetable intake, as it is vital for promoting tissue health;
  • Maintain good posture, this is important at all times but especially when at your desk as long periods in a poor position (typically slumped) will lead to poor circulation and nerve conduction and increase the risk of developing RSI;
  • Ensure regular exercise, which is essential for muscle health, 30 minutes of walking a day is a great boost for circulation and will improve overall health in many ways;
  • Seek good manual therapy, as it is a great way to keep muscles and joint moving correctly; a regular Osteopathic maintenance treatment will help.

If you have the symptons of RSI, don’t put off doing something about it. Bridge to Health Osteopathic Healthcare is based in Uxbridge, West London where we specialise in workplace based musculoskeletal complaints – visit our website at

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