Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

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RSI is a syndrome that includes a group of diseases with symptoms such as pain in the upper limbs and fingers, difficulty moving them, tingling, muscle fatigue, and reduced range of motion.

RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is not exactly a disease. It is a syndrome consisting of a group of diseases – tendonitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, thoracic canyon syndrome, round pronator syndrome, myalgia – which affects muscles, nerves and tendons of the upper limbs mainly, and overloads the musculoskeletal system. This disorder causes pain and inflammation and can alter the functional capacity of the affected area. Incidentally, the prevalence is higher in females.

Also called DORT (Work-Related Osteomuscular Disorder), CTD (Cumulative Trauma Disorder), WMSD (Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder) or repetitive motion syndrome, RSI is caused by mechanisms of aggression, ranging from repeated efforts or requiring a lot of force in its execution, to vibration, inadequate posture and stress. This association of terminologies has caused the condition to be understood only as an occupational disease and there are professionals exposed to greater risk: people who work with computers, on assembly and production lines or operate crushers, as well as typists, musicians, sportsmen, and people who do manual work, for example knitting and crocheting.

DIAGNOSIS

The diagnosis is basically clinical. The most important thing is to determine the cause of the symptoms to choose the appropriate treatment. This often requires a multidisciplinary assessment.

SYMPTOMS

The main symptoms of RSI are: pain in the upper limbs and fingers, difficulty moving them, tingling, muscle fatigue, change in temperature and sensitivity, reduced range of motion, inflammation.

It is important to highlight that, most of the time, these symptoms are related to inadequate activity not only of the upper limbs, but of the whole body. It can be caused by, for example, mechanical compression of an anatomical structure or if the person sits in front of a computer or plays the piano for eight plus hours straight.

TREATMENT

In acute pain attacks, treatment includes the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and resting compromised musculoskeletal structures. In the more advanced stages of the syndrome, the application of corticoids in the area of the lesion or orally, physiotherapy, and surgical intervention are therapeutic resources that must be considered.

The knowledge of ergonomics, a science that studies the best way to achieve and preserve the balance between man, machine, working conditions and the environment in order to ensure efficiency and well-being of the worker, has proven to be very useful in the treatment and prevention of RSI.

RECOMMENDATIONS

– Try to keep your back straight, supported by a comfortable backrest, and shoulders relaxed while you work sitting down. Also, take care that your wrists are not bent. Stand up, walk a little, and stretch every hour;

– Make sure that the chair and/or seat on which you sit to work is appropriate for the type of activity you perform;

– Do not assume that RSI is a syndrome that only affects people who work in certain functions. Those who use the computer, for example, for leisure time for hours on end, are also subject to developing the disorder;

– Take a good look: any part of the body can be affected by RSI as long as it is exposed to continuous trauma mechanisms. Therefore, the syndrome may manifest in body areas such as the lumbar spine, if the overload occurs in the lumbar spine or in the calcaneus tendon (Achilles tendon), if the person walks or runs long distances.

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