Repetitive Stress Injury: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Repetitive Stress Injury?

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are injuries that happen when too much stress is placed on a part of the body, resulting in inflammation (pain and swelling), muscle strain, or tissue damage. This stress generally occurs from repeating the same movements over and over again.
RSI is of two types depending on the symptoms
  • Type 1 RSI- This is when a doctor can diagnose a recognised medical condition, from your symptoms. It is usually characterised by swelling and inflammation of the muscles or tendons.
  • Type 2 RSI- This is when a doctor cannot diagnose a medical condition from your symptoms. Type 2 RSI is also referred to as non-specific pain syndrome.
    Examples of RSIs are tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, golfers elbow, intersection syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger finger etc.                    

Recovery Time

  • Symptoms may disappear when you stop the aggravating activity. It may take only a few hours for the symptoms to settle, or it may take as long as a couple of days.
  • Unfortunately, over time a minor RSI can turn into a nasty chronic injury. Extra stress in your work or taking fewer breaks can make your symptoms much more severe and long term.


  • RSI is often diagnosed when symptoms develop following a repetitive task and fade when the task is stopped.
  • The doctor will try to assess how the injury occurred and what motions cause pain. Your doctor may perform X-rays, blood tests, or other tests to make sure there are no other health problems.

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is RSI?
RSI is the inflammation of the joints and ligaments due to repetitive stress over a prolonged period of time causing pain and reduced functioning.

Q2.  What causes RSI?
RSI can be caused due to any repetitive action without rest or proper break. It can happen at work or play or home. Some common causes are repetitive typing on keyboard, texting on mobile, playing tennis, golf etc.

Q3.  How long it takes to get RSI?
There is no specific time duration in which repetitive stress injury occurs. There may be gradual increase in symptoms if the action is continued or gradual reduction if rest and proper treatment is given.

Q4.  What is the treatment for RSI?
The treatment for RSI is conservative with pain relief medication and rest. In severe cases operation may be required.

Q5.  What are the complications of RSI?
There are no serious complications of RSI but some pain and discomfort and reduced functioning of the affected part. 

Q6.  How do I prevent RSI?
You can prevent RSI by avoiding excessive strain and taking frequent breaks from work. Maintain proper posture while working. Eat healthy food and do regular exercise.

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