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By Matthew Pope  B.Sc. M.Chiro

RSI (or Repetitive Strain Injury) is a broad term used to describe an overuse injury. Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) is another name that is now used to describe RSI.

Repeated use and the same movement patterns can cause inflammation and damage to the soft tissues (muscles, nerves, tendons and tendon sheaths etc). OOS/RSI occurrence is more common in the upper limb and forearm.

RSI/OOS commonly includes localised injuries/pain. Some of the more common injuries can be classified as below:

  • Peripheral nerve entrapments
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve entrapment)
    • Ulnar nerve entrapment
    • Radial nerve entrapment
  • Tendonitis/tendinopathy
    • Tennis elbow
    • Golfers elbow
    • Intersection syndrome
  • Tenosynovitis
    • De Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis
    • Trigger finger/thumb (with and without nodule)

The nerves for your arm and wrist leave your spinal cord at your cervical spine (your neck). Compression of the nerves anywhere along their course can cause pain, tingling, numbness and burning. You can strain or sprain these ligaments or muscles from a sudden movement, improper movement, or through overuse.

Whereas acute RSI is relatively simple to assess and treat successfully, it is difficult to cure chronic RSI. Chronic RSI is multifactorial and can sometimes lead to chronic pain. It often involves tendinopathy of all the wrist muscles, mild carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as problems at the wrist, shoulder and neck.

If you have aches that lasts after you stop work or do a particular activity or sport that keeps getting worse you should consider getting it checked.

Early Signs of RSI/OOS

The first signs may be soreness, burning, tingling or discomfort in the neck, arms, wrists, fingers or shoulders. These symptoms may come on when you do something or appear after a repetitive task.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Pain, deep ache, numbness or burning of the hand, wrist, arm or shoulder.
  • Pins and needles or numbness into the fingers, hand or wrist.
  • Limited range of motion of fingers, wrist or shoulder. Check your other wrist to find out what is normal for you.
  • Stiffness or soreness of the muscles at the hand, elbow, or shoulder
  • Locking of a finger or multiple fingers, particularly in the morning (when cold)

What Causes RSI/OOS?

Many factors can cause RSI. They include:

  • Repetitive gripping of non vibrating equipment (sports, work equipment)
  • Repetitive gripping of vibrating equipment (power tools)
  • Repetitive typing without a break
  • Commencing heavy or repetitive work after not having done that work before (work hardening)
  • Gripping equipment more forcefully than is required
  • Returning to repetitive/forceful work after a period of absence
  • Insufficient break periods
  • Sustained positions/postures
  • Weakness in other body regions forcing excessive load/use of certain muscle groups

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Working at a desk for long periods.
  • Repeated bending the wrist or reaching out with the arm.
  • Participation in sports without proper training. Especially golf, tennis, squash, and baseball.
  • Sharp increase in athletic activity (weekend or industrial athlete)
  • Playing musical instruments. Proper training and following a program where you gradually increase the amount of time you play can prevent injury.

Treatment

There are a number of options for treatment, such as exercises, mobilisation intervention, ergonomic modification (equipment or positioning), splinting, shock wave therapy, acupuncture, soft tissue therapy, taping and manual therapies provided by your health practitioner including our chiropractors here at Tweed Coast Chiropractic.

In addition, behaviour modification may be necessary, and advice can be given by your health practitioner as to how to implement changes in your work, sporting activity and daily life. Paying attention to proper ergonomic principles and posture can also help overcome overuse injuries that include carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and tendinopathy (golfers and tennis elbow).

OOS and CTS in advanced stages can become quite serious, involving a loss of sensation, muscle deterioration, and permanent loss of function, in these cases surgery may be necessary.