Repetitive strain injury is an umbrella term for a number of injuries associated with the overuse of muscles, tendons, and nerves. We’re going to show you what to do if you believe you’re suffering from an RSI. Please bear in mind that there is no “golden-bullet” solution to RSI, due to the variety of circumstances and causes; however, here are a number of ways in which you can aid your recovery.
Step 1: RSI symptoms. RSIs present themselves in a number of ways. You may notice a recurring pain, aching muscles or soreness in the neck, shoulders, upper back, wrists or hands. You may also feel numbness, swelling or tenderness throughout any of these regions. More advanced symptoms can be a loss of grip strength, weakness, and fatigue.
Step 2: See a doctor. If you’re suffering from any RSI symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to ascertain an accurate diagnosis. They may then be able to refer you to other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, or occupational therapists, or prescribe appropriate medication if necessary.
Step 3: Avoid aggravating activities. Wherever possible, try to avoid actions that provoke your symptoms. For example, if your hands are painful due to excessive computer use, you should try to limit the amount of typing you do. Equally, shoulder injuries may be aggravated by activities like driving, in which case you may want to limit your driving to essential journeys only. Impractical though these steps my seem, they may be necessary to achieving a faster recovery.
Step 4: Hot and cold packs. A hot water bottle helps to increase blood flow to injured tissues, which promotes healing. Apply the pack to the affected area for 10-15 minutes. Cold packs can be applied to more acute injuries, as it helps to reduce swelling and pain. Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice, or use a bag of frozen peas, and wrap this in a damp towel to avoid causing ice burns. Either hold the pack, or tie it in place using a second towel, for 15-20 minutes. There may be discomfort for the first few minutes, but this will fade as the area becomes numb.
Step 5: Splints and supports. Depending on the condition you’re suffering from, there are a number of splints and supports that can be easily obtained. Tubigrip can be worn over the wrist for added support and warmth; splints for the wrist can also help to immobilize certain painful movements, but should only be worn for limited periods to avoid muscle wastage, so consult your GP if you have any concerns.
Step 6: Gentle exercise. When trying to recover from an RSI, gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, can be beneficial. Strengthening exercises should not be attempted without being prescribed by a health professional, as they could further exacerbate your condition. Yoga, pilates and the Alexander technique are all exercise regimes that have been advocated as beneficial in RSI recovery. For more information, see the separate VideoJug collection of films about yoga and pilates. For some basic stretches that can be adapted into a treatment program for RSI sufferers, see the VideoJug film, “RSI Prevention Exercises.”