Repetitive Strain Injury

In a previous blog we spoke about shoulder pain caused by repetitive movements, poor lifting techniques, misfiring muscles or imbalances. We then went on to talk about upper and lower cross syndrome. Today we’ll be talking about repetitive movements.

What does repetitive movement actually mean to the body and me?

You may have heard around the place the term RSI or the words Repetitive Strain Injury, much like the name implies it’s caused when you get an injury due to repetitive movements. It is an umbrella term that includes many common injuries such as tennis and golfer’s elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger and ulnar tunnel syndrome. 

Now hold on, this is the part where you start to think that you do hundreds of movements within a day which you count as repetitive but I’m talking on a different scale. Imagine cutting a carrot into julienne (that’s thin strips) for dinner, now multiply that by cutting enough to feed a banquet of people multiple times a day, basically your everyday chef/cook. 

Chopping a carrot doesn’t take that much effort but if you’re doing it continuously and have been doing so for many years, you catch my drift. That is why most cases of RSI are from a movement or action from work or your favourite hobbies.

So it's caused by overwork?

So now that you know RSI is associated with repetitive tasks and movements it can also come from forceful exertion, constant vibrations and sustained or awkward positioning.

Basically, when boiled down to one word, it is fatigue. Mostly fatigue, overwork or poor condition while at work. It is forcing the body to work when it is already tired and then it starts to get inflamed and gets cranky; and everyone knows that when you try to force something or someone to work when they are cranky… Well let’s just leave that to the individual’s imagination!

Okay, so with that said, when you use your muscles, tiny tears occur in the muscle or tendon, then are repaired when you rest. Normally the body does all this repair work without us knowing. With excessive work and or pressure, and not enough rest; this will cause inflammation and can get progressively worse over time if care isn’t taken to properly rest and let the muscles repair. 

Inflammation 101

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction (immune response) to an irritant, and in this case, it is the micro tears in the muscles and tendons, 5 signs of inflammation are

  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loss of function (difficulty in using or moving the area/muscle)

Not all inflammation follows these rules as some are silent, yet these are the most common symptoms.

Increased blood flow brings white blood cells to the irritated area which causes redness, heat and widening of blood vessels to accommodate the increase of blood. This process stimulates the nerves and causes the pain you feel which is also a protective function as you are now aware of the area. Loss of function is the result as not only the whole area is in pain, but also swollen from the healing process and extra blood in the region. 


Now after that long waffle we’ll talk about the most sort after info – Treatment! Causes and symptoms of RSI are as varied as there are cases, so one may work for you but not the person next to you, it also will depend on if it is either acute or chronic. (severe and sudden onset of pain vs long and develop over time) The most common treatments for RSI are:

  • Hot or cold therapy
  • Splints or supports
  • Physical therapy including massage, strengthening exercises and or stretches
  • Medication such as anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Steroidal injection
  • Surgery

We highly recommend you choose and go through all the conservative methods before considering the last two options. Injections and surgery should be your last 2 choices and not your first.

How long will it take?

Like the varied list of different treatments there is also a variation in time taking for it to be as good as gold again and that mostly comes down to a few factors:

  • Early injury treatment
  • Physical and emotion stress
  • Amount of rest your injury is getting
  • Whether you must use the muscles that are sore for work or daily life.
  • Self-treatment in between massage treatments

Overall each case of RSI will heal at a different rate due to both the individuals general health and also their lifestyle, both work and home.

Remember, prevention is better than cure and that we want to be proactive and not reactive and here at Active You, we can help.


 Tara @ Active You