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Repetitive strain injury (RSI)

If you are suffering pain at work, you need to adjust the way you operate.

If you carry on using the same keyboard or mouse, hoping it will go away, it won't. It will just get worse. If you take painkillers to help you through the work, it may get worse more quickly because you are masking the pain, not solving the problem.

What is RSI

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is used as a general term for a wide range of injuries to the hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, neck and even the back, the result of repetitive work.

Do you have RSI?

Do you use a computer keyboard, mouse or stylus and do you suffer from any of the following symptoms in your fingers, hands, elbows, shoulders, neck or back?

  • pain
  • pins and needles
  • muscle spasms
  • numbness
  • tenderness
  • muscle weakness
  • swelling
  • "cracking" feeling
  • restricted movement.

If the answer is "yes", read on.

Will the symptoms go away?

RSI is a progressive, long-term condition that worsens the longer it goes unrecognised and untreated. The earlier you start treatment, the better your chance of a complete recovery.

There are three broad stages in the development of RSI:

Stage one: aches and pains, tingling and a feeling of warmth in the hand, arm, neck or shoulder caused by early inflammation arising from intensive work. These may go away after a night's rest. Nearly everybody suffers at times from these, which can stay at this level for months, but they are a warning that must be recognised.

Stage two: recurrent pain, aching and tiredness that occur earlier during the working day. These symptoms persist at night, causing sleeplessness, and can go on for months. Users who ignore the pain, or resort to painkillers, without rest or treatment at this stage can go on to develop very serious conditions. Painkillers do exactly what their name implies. They kill pain but don't cure it – and they can make your RSI worse if you keep on working in an artificially pain-free state.

Stage three: constant pain and weakness, even when resting, which can be irreversible. This stage will affect the sufferer's ability to work and to carry out even light tasks at home. There is frequently swelling of the wrists and hands, which go cold and can almost literally turn blue from restricted circulation.

The development of RSI through these stages can sometimes be very dramatic – hands can suddenly "seize up". What started as a dull ache or cramp can develop – in a relatively short time – into a total inability to use the limb.

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