Recovery from Repetitive Strain Injury

repetative strain injury
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a type of injury in the muscles, tendons or nerves caused by repetitive actions, forceful exertions, vibrations or awkward postures.
Doing an activity with your arms repeatedly for long periods of time puts you at risk of RSI. Your most likely to be affected if you do a job where you use your hands to do one activity over and over, like typing or working on an assembly line. You could also get RSI from a hobby that involves your hands, such as playing a musical instrument or playing a sport like tennis in which you would do similar motions over and over. Cold temperatures, vibrating equipment and stress are also thought to be contributing factors to RSI.
RSI is a catch all term that covers a number of injuries. These are put into two categories, type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 injuries include:


  • Carpel tunnel syndrome which causes pain or weakness in your hand, wrist or fingers.
  • Tennis elbow.
  • Rotator cuff injures which cause pain or immobility around the shoulder.
  • Writers cramp which causes cramps in the hand.

If the pain is not specific to one area, there is no inflammation or swelling or your symptoms don’t fit with a recognised condition then you will be diagnosed with type 2 RSI.

What are the symptoms of RSI?

RSI has a wide range of symptoms. A tell tale sign that you have RSI is that the pain usually gets worse or appears when you’re doing the activity that caused the injury, if that activity is something you need to do at work, then your working life can become very difficult. The pain may get so bad that it hurts all the time, even when you’re at rest and interrupt activities you need to do at home such as cleaning or cooking. RSI can go from an annoyance to a chronic, long term injury.
RSI usually causes symptoms like stiffness, weakness, tingling, numbness, cramp or a sharp or dull ache.

The first step to treating RSI

There is no point in getting treatment for RSI if you have to go back to the behaviours that caused it in the first place. Identifying and modifying what’s causing the problem should be the first step. A physiotherapist can help you spot what the problem is and help you work towards a safer way of doing the activity. If your company hasn’t given your work space a risk assessment then you are entitled to ask for one. No employer should be forcing you to do an activity that harms you.
A small modification to your working environment could fix the problem. It’s important to take regular breaks from your work so you can stretch and move about. Again, your employer should not have an issue with you taking regular short breaks because it is important for your health.

How can you recover from RSI?


  • Many people find that a gentle exercise like swimming or walking can be a big help to their injury and eases their symptoms.
  • Medication options are not preferable for some, but short term use of ibuprofen can help to reduce inflammation and swelling of the affected area. A cold pack can help with this too.
  • A splint or elastic support may help, a physiotherapist can give you advice about whether this is necessary and choosing the right one.
  • Physiotherapy exercises. A physiotherapist can show you exercises to do that will help to repair the injury and restore movement to the area gently.
  • Massage can help to lengthen and relax tight, restricted muscles. It cannot correct RSI on it’s own, and is best used along side stretching exercises as a rehabilitation aid.
  • Acupuncture can help to reduce symptoms and promotes healing.

RSI is a painful injury that can get worse over time. It’s easier to heal from if it’s caught in the early stages. If you think you may be suffering from RSI you can call us on 0114 268 6677 or email

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The Author

Lewis Payne

Lewis graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2013 with a First Class Honours in Physiotherapy, worked as Sheffield F.C.’s first team Physiotherapist, and now runs a leading-edge private clinic in Sheffield. With over ten years of experience, he specialises in manual therapy, advanced technological treatments, and exercise-based approaches, focusing on spinal and joint conditions, sports injuries, and specifically complex spinal issues like disc pathology and scoliosis. Lewis leads in IDD Therapy, performing over 6000 treatments, offers MRI referrals and reviews, and employs a holistic treatment philosophy viewing the body as a Tensegrity structure. He excels in postural analysis, soft tissue release techniques, and prescribes biomechanical corrective exercises to enhance natural movement.