The first description of RSIs came from an Italian physician - Bernardino Ramazzini in 1700. He described more than 20 categories of RSIs developed by the industrial workers of Italy.1
Today, the main focuses of RSI research and treatment are manual labor, office work and our perpetual use of modern devices; these are the biggest progenitors of repetitive strains in the modern world.
As Ramazzini put it more than 3 centuries ago:
"Incessant driving of the pen over paper causes intense fatigue of the hand and the whole arm because of the continuous and almost tonic strain on the muscles and tendons, which in course of time results in failure of power in the right hand."
The pen and paper have become the keyboard and screen, but the principle remains the same. This article will cover the general symptoms, causes and treatments of RSI.
Contents of this article:
Fast facts on RSI
Here are some key points about RSI. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- RSIs come in a vast array of different forms.
- Each RSI might require different courses of action to treat and prevent.
- The first medical practitioner to talk about RSIs did so in 1700.
- Modern technological devices have caused an upswing in RSIs.
- Repetitive motions in one anatomical region can affect musculature in a separate area of the body.
- Psychological stress and monotony can worsen the symptoms of RSIs.
- Workplace ergonomics can prevent a wide array of RSIs.
- In some cases, medication and even surgery can ease symptoms.
What is an RSI?
RSIs come in a variety of forms, can occur at any age and can affect most movable parts of the human body.
The term RSI covers a myriad of complaints. There are almost as many RSIs as there are movable parts of the human body. This article will focus predominantly on those that are caused by working environments, sports and modern technological devices.
RSIs are conditions associated with repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression and sustained or awkward positions.
General terms applied to RSIs include repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), occupational overuse syndrome, overuse syndrome and regional musculoskeletal disorder.
Other, more colloquial terms for modern RSIs include Blackberry thumb, iPod finger, PlayStation thumb, Rubik's wrist or cuber's thumb, stylus finger, raver's wrist and Emacs pinky.
Symptoms of RSI
Because there are so many potential causes of RSI, it follows that there are a huge number of potential symptoms. Below are some of the more general symptoms of RSI:
- Tenderness in the affected muscle or joint
- Pain in the affected muscle or joint
- A throbbing (pulsating) sensation in the affected area
- Tingling sensation in the affected area (especially the hand or arm)
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of strength.
On the next page, we look at causes, diagnosis and some examples of RSI.