What is repetitive strain injury?

Repetitive strain injury (RSI), often referred to tenosynovitis, is when the lining of the protective sheath around a tendon becomes inflamed. Repetitive strain injury can affect any tendon in the body but is possibly most commonly seen in the wrist and hand.

What causes repetitive strain injury?
The most common cause of repetitive strain injury is that the same small movements are repeated over a long period. This often happens if you are trying to work in an awkward position while doing a job that involves repetitive movements. Using a keyboard at a poorly designed work-station could cause RSI, as could using a tool which is badly designed for the job.

What are the symptoms of repetitive strain injury?
* Pain or tenderness over the palm, ring finger or joint of the thumb, sometimes spreading up the forearm and shoulder.
* Swelling and heat in the affected area.
* Stiffness of the joint, sometimes leading to restricted movement.
* Crackling or grating noise from the tendon.

What can be done about it?
* Rest the hand and/or arm for a week or so. Your doctor may be able to fit you with a brace or splint to hold the joint steady and stop you from putting more strain on the affected tendon.
* Cold compresses may help.
* Painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help.
* Your doctor may inject steroids into the affected area to reduce inflammation.

What can you do to help yourself?
* Allow adequate time to recover before going back to the activities which caused the condition. Resuming tasks at the same intensity as before will probably cause the symptoms to return.
* Vary the tasks that you do so strain is not put on the same area of the body all of the time.
* Take frequent, short breaks and stretch the areas prone to injury.
*Change the design of your workstation or tools. You should have a supportive chair and sit upright at the correct height. Your forearms should rest on the desk at a 90-degree angle to your elbows. Your upper legs should be at a 90-degree angle to your body and your lower legs at a 90-degree angle to your knees.

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