Repetitive strain injury
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A repetitive strain injury (RSI), also called cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), occupational overuse syndrome, or work related upper limb disorder (WRULD), is any of a loose group of conditions resulting from overuse of a tool, eg. computer, guitar or knife, or other activity that requires repeated movements. It is a syndrome that affects muscles, tendons and nerves in the hands, arms and upper back. The medically accepted condition in which it occurs is when muscles in these areas are kept tense for very long periods of time, due to poor posture and/or repetitive motions.

It is most common among assembly line and computer workers. Good posture, ergonomics and limiting time in stressful working conditions can help prevent or halt the progress of the disorder. It is also a problem for guitarists who play with very tensed muscles.[citation needed] Stretches, strengthening exercises, and biofeedback training to reduce neck and shoulder muscle tension can help heal existing disorders.

Specific conditions

The most well known repetitive strain injury is Carpal tunnel syndrome, which is common among guitarists as well as assembly line workers but relatively rare among computer users: computer-related arm pain is generally caused by another specific condition.[citation needed]

Many of these disorders are interrelated, so a typical suffering person may have many of these at once. For other people, no specific diagnosis is possible. In these cases it is often best to treat RSI as a single general disorder, targeting all major areas of the arms and upper back in the course of treatment.

Some of these are:

Warning signs

RSI conditions have many varied symptoms. The following may indicate the onset of an RSI.

Symptoms may be caused by apparently unrelated areas — for example hand numbness may be caused by a nerve being pinched near the shoulder. In the initial stages of RSI, an area may be in quite bad condition but not feel painful unless it is massaged, or weak unless a long endurance exercise is performed. Therefore all areas of the upper body are considered when evaluating an RSI condition.

Stress and RSI

Studies have related RSI and other upper extremity complaints with psychological and social factors. A large amount of psychological distress showed doubled risk of the reported pain, while job demands, poor support from colleagues, and work dissatisfaction also showed an increase in pain, even after short term exposure.[1] Some believe that stress is the main cause, rather than a contributing factor, of a large fraction of pain symptoms usually attributed to RSI.


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If RSI symptoms have already appeared, there are various further methods of treatment that can be applied in addition to the above preventative techniques. For most of these treatments, there has not yet been enough medical research to conclusively demonstrate their long term effectiveness, but they may be helpful.


  1. ^ Nahit ES, Pritchard CM, Cherry NM, Silman AJ, Macfarlane GJ (2001). "The influence of work related psychosocial factors and psychological distress on regional musculoskeletal pain: a study of newly employed workers". J Rheumatol. 28 (6): 1378–84. PMID 11409134.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Ratzlaff, C. R. (2007). "Work-Related Repetitive Strain Injury and Leisure-Time Physical Activity". Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & Research). 57 (3): 495–500. PMID 17394178. ((cite journal)): Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); line feed character in |title= at position 42 (help)
  3. ^ Rachel's RSI homage to Dr. John Sarno, a website with testimonials regarding "mind/body approaches" to RSI.
  4. ^ Sarno, John (1991). Healing Back Pain. Warner Books. ISBN 0446392308.