Repetitive strain injury, or RSI, is also known as work-related upper limb disorder. It can be a muscle, tendon, or nerve injury that occurs in an upper limb. RSI can result in pain, aches, swelling, cramps, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected areas of the body. It is usually caused by repetitive movements of a particular part of the body during work, as well as awkward posturing and stress.

There are several types of RSI, and these include carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendonitis, tenosynovitis, frozen shoulder, epicondylitis, and others. Carpal tunnel syndrome results from the compression of the median nerve at the wrist, and it causes tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in the hand and the fingers. Women are more susceptible to this condition than men, because they have smaller carpal tunnels. Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that is located at the joints, such as the shoulders or the knee. This injury is caused by too much friction on the bursa, which can result from repetitive movements of upper limbs. Overuse of the tendons in the body can result in tendonitis. The tendons will become swollen, and they may even be torn and inflamed. Tendonitis usually occurs at the joints, including the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

Tenosynovitis is similar to tendonitis in the sense that it involves swelling of the tendons, but it also causes the synovial sheath of the tendons to become inflamed. This condition is usually caused by repetitive activities, but it can also result from arthritis and rheumatism. Frozen shoulder is an injury that causes pain and stiffness around the shoulder area, and it is usually experienced by people who are between 40 to 60 years old. Some of the causes of frozen shoulder are repetitive activities and immobilization of the shoulders for a long period of time. Epicondylitis is an elbow injury that is common among sportspeople, particularly golf and tennis players. It occurs when the tendons connected to the bone are inflamed and the forearm muscle is overstrained.

Depending on the severity of an RSI, different methods of treatment can be applied. Patients who are experiencing mild injuries can be treated with painkillers, inflammatory drugs, cold and heat packs, and massage, which can help to ease the pain. Serious injuries may require specialized therapies, acupuncture, or even surgery. Some of these treatments can be quite costly, but those who suffer from RSI because of certain work-related activities can claim compensation from their employers.

Employers in the US and UK are required by law to take measures to prevent the occurrence of RSI in the workplace. If there are certain work practices in a company that expose workers to the risk of RSI, the employer has to teach the workers how to protect themselves from such injuries. If the employer fails to do so, he or she can be charged with negligence if a worker becomes a victim of RSI. Those who acquire RSI at work can seek legal advice to find out how they can get compensation for their physical and emotional suffering as well as medical expenses.

  • RSI Help: Article about legal protection for workers who are exposed to the risk of RSI.
  • RSI: A list of laws dealing with RSI in the workplace.
  • Don Lau: Information on the legal rights of RSI victims.
  • AFL-CIO: RSI and workers’ compensation.
  • FlexTend: The problem of workplace injury and the law.