MN Chiropractor | Work Injury | Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) (also known as repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CT), occupational overuse syndrome, overuse syndrome, regional musculoskeletal disorder) is an injury of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression (pressing against hard surfaces), sustained, or awkward positions.


Ergonomics is a very important part of optimal musculoskeletal health. In short, ergonomics seeks to ensure that equipment and technology work in complete agreement with natural human movement and posture.

Did you know?

  • $20 Billion is the annual cost of workers’ compensation claims related to repetitive motion injuries and illnesses. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • In 2002 employees missed 1.44 million days of work due to a repetitive stress injury (BLS)
  • 91% of repetitive motion injuries occur to the wrist, hand, arms, head, neck, back, and shoulders. (National Safety Council)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the second leading lost time diagnosis, with an average of 27 days missed from work. (BLS) and the average workers compensation claim for CTS is $12,181. (National Council on Compensation Insurance)

Types of RSIs that affect computer users may include non-specific arm pain or work related upper limb disorder (WRULD). Conditions such as RSI tend to be associated with both physical and psychosocial stressors.

What Causes RSI?

RSI is believed by many to be caused due to lifestyle without ergonomic care, E.g. While working in front of computers, driving, traveling etc. Simple reasons like ‘Using a blunt knife for everyday chopping of vegetables’, may cause RSI.

Initially, RSI affects the soft tissues of the involved joint(s). Soft tissues include muscles, nerves, ligaments and tendons. However, if left untreated for long periods of time, the involved joint can become arthritic and form bone spurs resulting in permanent damage to the joint.

Other typical habits that some sources believe lead to RSI:

  • Reading or doing tasks for extended periods of time while looking down.
  • Sleeping on an inadequate bed/mattress or sitting in a bad armchair and/or in an uncomfortable position.
  • Carrying heavy items.
  • Holding one’s phone between neck and shoulder.
  • Watching TV in incorrect position e.g. Too much to the left/right.
  • Sleeping with head forward, while traveling.
  • Prolonged use of the hands, wrists, back, neck, etc.
  • Sitting in the same position for a long period of time.


Repetitive Strain

The following complaints are typical in patients who might receive a diagnosis of RSI:

  • Short bursts of excruciating pain in the arm, back, shoulders, wrists, hands, or thumbs (typically diffuse – i.e. spread over many areas).
  • The pain is worse with activity.
  • Weakness, lack of endurance.

In contrast to carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms tend to be diffuse and non-anatomical, crossing the distribution of nerves, tendons, etc. They tend not to be characteristic of any discrete pathological condition. Studies show workers suffering from some sort of RSI, show common problem areas being the back, shoulders, wrists, and hands.


Computer Workstation Variables

On their own, some RSIs will resolve spontaneously provided the area is first given enough rest when the RSI first begins. However, some RSIs have been known to persist for years, or have needed to be cured with surgery.

The most often prescribed treatments for repetitive strain injuries are rest, exercise, braces and massage. A variety of medical products also are available to augment these therapies. Since the computer workstation is frequently blamed for RSIs, particularly of the hand and wrist, ergonomic adjustments of the workstation are often recommended.

Putting yourself in an ergonomically correct environment will go a long way toward minimizing the risk of injury down the road. Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, neck pain and many others can be avoided in large part if proper ergonomics are practiced.

Modifications of posture and arm use (ergonomics) are often recommended.

Once your chiropractor has helped to get your pain under control, he or she may suggest exercise, diet, or lifestyle changes to improve your range of motion, strengthen muscles, and prevent a painful relapse.