What is Repetitive Stress Injury?

Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is known by a lot of names, Repetitive motion injuries, cumulative trauma disorder and regional musculoskeletal disorder to name a few. Repetitive stress injuries are injuries resulting from too much stress being placed on a specific body part due to its frequent and extensive use. The stress leads to inflammation (leading to pain and swelling), muscles strain or tissue damage.

RSI can result from very common actions, such as lots of typing. Thus RSIs come under common work-related injuries. They are the most common type of injuries in the United States and take a 50% share in all athletic-related injuries. RSIs have different types. The two most common types are bursitis and tendonitis. These two are often difficult to differentiate and can co-exist.


Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa. The bursa is a fluid filled sac which serves as a cushion for a joint. There are over 150 bursae in the body. The most common areas where bursae can occur are the hip, knee and the elbow. Bursitis also has different types, Infectious, gouty and traumatic. Traumatic bursitis is the one concerned with repetitive motion injuries and is most common in people who are younger than 35 years.


Tendonitis occurs when tendons are inflamed. The most common places where this occurs are the elbow (tennis elbow), shoulder and the biceps. Males have a higher chance of getting this disorder.



Causes of Repetitive Stress Injury

RSI usually results from an action being carried out repetitively for a long period of time. It is seen occurring most commonly in people who work with computers heavily or have manual labor work.

There are certain things that are linked with high chances of developing a RSI. They are:


  • Having a poor posture or carrying out activities that require sitting in an awkward position.

  • Vibrating equipment

  • Doing the same activity for a long time without break

  • Carrying out something that involves the use of force, for example lifting heavy objects.

  • Stress


Treatment of RSI

The first step in treatment of Repetitive stress injuries is to identify the activity that led to RSI and to stop it. To help relieve the symptoms of RSI doctors may advise patients to take a course of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. Usage of cold and hot pack, splints and elastic support is also recommended when the doctor finds it necessary.


In cases where the affected area has inflammation resulting from a condition like the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, doctors may ask patients to get steroid injections to reduce the inflammation.

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