Repetitive strain injury (RSI) may heal within a few weeks to six months (depending on the severity) by following the necessary precautions and available medical treatment. In some patients, the RSI symptoms may develop into a long-term, chronic condition.
RSI is a broad term for the pain felt in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues of the body, such as the wrists, forearms, shoulders, back, or neck, due to repetitive movements and overuse.
RSI also has other names that include:
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Repetitive motion disorder
- Cumulative trauma disorder
- Occupational overuse syndrome
- Overuse syndrome
- Regional musculoskeletal disorder
Treatment for RSI includes identifying and decreasing the activity or motion that produces discomfort and symptoms. Some therapy options include:
- Using elastic support or splint to relieve pressure on the affected muscles and nerves
- Applying heat or ice to the affected area
- Making changes in the work environment to improve body posture while working
- Medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants, may help
- Corticosteroid injections are only given to reduce severe inflammation
- Physical therapy is advised to prevent worsening of the injury, improve posture, strengthen muscles and relieve pain
- Surgery is the last option to repair problems in tendons and nerves to prevent permanent damage
What are the causes of repetitive strain injury (RSI)?
A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is classified into two types:
- Type I: This is a musculoskeletal disorder characterized by swelling and inflammation of muscles or tendons.
- Type II: This is related to nerve damage from several causes, but the main cause is due to work activity.
The most common causes of RSI nowadays are manual labor, office work, and the use of modern technological devices. Other causes of RSI include:
- Poor posture or holding the same posture for longer hours
- Forceful activities that are done in awkward or uncomfortable positions
- Repeated activity or action where there is direct pressure to particular areas
- Twisting or overexertion of a single muscle or a group of muscles
- Muscle fatigue
What are the symptoms of repetitive strain injury (RSI)?
The symptoms of repetitive strain injury (RSI) are determined by the severity of the strain and the part of the body affected. Symptoms of RSI may include:
What are the examples of repetitive strain injury (RSI)?
Here are a few conditions that are associated with repetitive strain injury (RSI). However, these conditions could be caused by other factors.
- Bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs around the joints)
- Tendonitis (inflammation of tendons)
- Tendinosis (degeneration of tendons)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness caused by pressure on the nerve)
- Raynaud’s disease (small arteries that supply the skin constrict when cold and reduces blood supply to the affected area)
- Rotator cuff syndrome (damage to tendons that hold the shoulder joint)
- Medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow (affected inside of the lower arm)
- Lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow (affected outer part of the elbow)
- Stenosing tenosynovitis or trigger finger (caused by strong gripping of the finger, which may be stuck in a bent position)
- Radial tunnel syndrome (overuse of the hand irritates the nerve and cause pain)
- Writer’s cramp (spasm of muscles in hands due to overuse)
How to prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI)
Taking preventive measures can help lower the risk factors of repetitive strain injury (RSI). If the cause of RSI is work-related, then it gets difficult to prevent it from developing or worsening. The only way to reduce the risk of RSI is by reducing the intensity of the activity.
The other ways to decrease the risk of RSI include:
- Take frequent short breaks from repetitive work
- Set up workspaces that allow proper body posture
- Stretch the body before any activity, which may create tension
- Stand up, stretch the body and extend the back, arms, and fingers after working for longer hours
- Proper warmup and cooldown exercises are to be done before and after physical activity
- Avoid activities that trigger discomfort or flare-up
- Use splints or bands to reduce strain during physical activities
A doctor can diagnose an RSI through physical examination, analyzing medical history, understanding the type of repetitive movements the patient performs daily and causes of discomfort. Diagnosis can be made with imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, which provides a clear picture of any rips, ruptures, inflammation, or other abnormalities.
RSI may become much more uncomfortable and lead to decreased mobility, weakness, or disability of the affected area if left untreated.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Overuse Injuries. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/patients-families/health-library/healthdocnew/repetitive-stress-injuries
MaineHealth. RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). https://www.mainehealth.org/Services/Orthopedics-Sports-Medicine/Repetitive-Strain-Injury
Top How Long for Repetitive Strain Injury to Heal Related Articles
Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which irritation of the wrist's median nerve causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of any disease that might be causing the symptoms.
Carpal Tunnel SyndromeA type of compression neuropathy (nerve damage) caused by compression and irritation of the median nerve in the wrist. See a picture of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and learn more about the health topic.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Surgery, and TreatmentCarpal tunnel syndrome symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness may need treatment. Carpal tunnel surgery is reserved for those who do not get relief from exercises, stretches, home remedies, wrist braces, and medication.
Carpal Tunnel QuizWho is more affected by carpal tunnel syndrome: Men or women? Take the Carpal Tunnel Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this common hand condition.
Hamstring InjuryHamstring injuries may range from minor strains to major ruptures. A hamstring injury causes spasm, tightness, and tenderness. More severe injuries may cause swelling and bruising. While most hamstring injuries heal without surgery, a complete rupture would require surgery.
How Long Before a Strained Neck Muscle Heals?A neck strain is an injury to the muscles or tendons of your neck muscles and tendons — two types of soft tissue. It typically takes days to weeks for strains to heal.
How Long Does It Take for a Muscle Strain to Heal?A muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers are overstretched and tear. Learn more about muscle strains, how muscle strains happen, muscle strain symptoms, muscle strain diagnosis, and muscle strain treatment options. Receive information on how a sprain and strain differ.
How Long Does it Take for an Oblique Strain to Heal?An oblique strain is a specific injury that affects your abdominal muscles. An oblique strain may heal within a few weeks to six weeks.
How Long Does It Take for a Strained Leg Muscle to Heal?A muscle strain usually results when it is overly stretched, and the muscle fibers tear. A mild or grade I strain may need ten days to three weeks to heal where a severe strain to the hamstrings may take up to six months.
Is a Muscle Strain the Same as a Muscle Tear?What is the difference between a muscle strain and a muscle tear?
Knee Injury and Meniscus TearsKnee injuries, especially meniscus tears, are common in contact sports. Symptoms and signs of a torn meniscus include knee pain, swelling, a popping sound, and difficulty bending the leg. Treatment may involve resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the knee, in addition to wearing a knee brace, taking anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching the knee.
Rotator Cuff Tear and InjuryRotator cuff injury is damage to any of the four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain and tenderness are common symptoms. Rotator cuff disease treatment depends on the severity of the shoulder injury.
Sprains and StrainsAn injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.