Repetitive strain injury: what it is and how to treat it

A repetitive strain injury It is a health problem whose main symptom is pain in the fingers and upper limbs. In addition, it can also cause tingling, muscle fatigue and limitation of movement.

Despite that, the TO READ It is not a disease, but a set of them. Tendinitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, epicondylitis, trigger finger, myalgias, carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet and pronator teres syndromes. All of them can characterize the problem.

RSI, repetitive strain injury, is considered an occupational disease (Source: Shutterstock)Fonte:  Shutterstock

Repetitive strain injury is also called THERE (work-related musculoskeletal disorder), LTC (cumulative trauma injury), AMERT (work-related muscle disorders) or repetitive motion syndrome.

The diseases it covers are those that affect muscles, nerves and tendons and put a strain on the musculoskeletal system. This disorder causes pain and inflammation and can alter the region’s ability to function.

In Brazil, as in other countries, it is considered an occupational disease and is, therefore, equivalent to an accident at work.

Causes of the problem

The emergence of RSI is directly related to the execution of repetitive and continuous movements. It is also favored by incorrect posture and overweight in bags and backpacks.

This injury is manifested mainly through pain, which radiates from the affected site to all the surrounding muscles. With movement, it can get worse, and gradually it can cause loss of strength and even atrophy.

People who do not strengthen their muscles are more likely to develop symptoms. The most common causes are lack of stretching and poor muscle strength. Without it, our body is not able to relieve the tension created by work.

The syndrome is favored by incorrect posture (Source: Shutterstock)The syndrome is favored by incorrect posture (Source: Shutterstock)Fonte:  Shutterstock

Some occupations are associated with the problem, due to greater exposure to risk. Assembly line workers, jackhammer operations, typists, musicians, sportspeople and artisans are some of them.

Symptoms of RSI

The diagnosis of this syndrome is clinical and can be given by any specialist doctor. More important than it is to identify the source of the problem, so that the treatment is conducted in the most appropriate way possible.

This requires a multidisciplinary analysis, which may include medical evaluation and consultations with physiotherapists or occupational therapists.

Pain in the upper limbs and fingers, difficulty in movement, tingling, muscle fatigue, increased sensitivity, reduced range of motion and inflammation of the affected region are the main symptoms of the injury.

Pain in muscles, tendons and joints are symptoms of the problem (Source: Shutterstock)Pain in muscles, tendons and joints are symptoms of the problem (Source: Shutterstock)Fonte:  Shutterstock

However, it is important to emphasize that they can be associated with our entire body, and not just the upper limbs. That’s because when there is a lot of mechanical compression or repetitive strain, the entire organism takes the impact.


To get rid of RSI, the affected tendon or musculature needs to relieve the tension it suffers. This can be done with proper organ maintenance. For this, stretching, mobility exercises, physical activity and muscle mass gain are excellent.

The stimuli that these practices promote increase elasticity and strengthen the necessary regions. That way, the cure for the problem is faster and more efficient.

In some cases, the patient suffers from very sharp pains. In these situations, medication is used to relieve symptoms and anti-inflammatories and analgesics are indicated. In addition, it is important that the affected muscles rest.

The diagnosis and treatment of RSI should be done by a qualified physician (Source: Shutterstock)The diagnosis and treatment of RSI should be done by a qualified physician (Source: Shutterstock)Fonte:  Shutterstock

In more advanced cases, specialists may prescribe the application of corticosteroids, either orally or directly in the area of ​​the lesion. Treatment can also be done through physical therapy, use of orthotics – splints, braces and braces – or even surgery.

How to avoid

To avoid the development of RSI, it is important to be aware of good ergonomic practices. This science studies the best way to preserve balance in the work environment, with the aim of ensuring well-being.

Whenever you work sitting for many hours, try to keep your spine straight, maintaining good posture. Sit in comfortable chairs with adequate backrest and keep your shoulders relaxed.

Also take care that the wrists are not bent. At least every hour it is important to get up and do some active activity, such as walking a little. If possible, the ideal is to do some stretching.

Knowledge of ergonomics helps prevent injuries (Source: Shutterstock)Knowledge of ergonomics helps prevent injuries (Source: Shutterstock)Fonte:  Shutterstock

despite the RSI be considered a functional problem, it doesn’t just afflict workers. Students study for a long time on the computer or even those who use the machine for leisure are subject to the syndrome.

As the injury affects other parts of the body, it’s not just sitting that we need to be aware. Avoid carrying a lot of weight on your back so you don’t overload your lower back and give preference to two-strap backpacks, not shoulder bags.

When walking or running long distances, try to wear comfortable shoes – and, if possible, suitable sneakers. Excessive activity can also affect the heel tendon.

READING It’s a health problem that we can prevent. Modifying and adapting to the work environment is the first step. With this important measure, it is already possible to reduce much of the risks associated with muscle injuries. If you experience symptoms, such as pain, the patient should immediately seek medical attention.

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