This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
The two terms broadly refer to problems affecting the upper back, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) and upper limb disorders cover about 20 conditions.
The terminology can be confusing. Different organisations and publications often use different terms for the same conditions, for example, the Health and Safety Executive uses RSI to refer to pain in the arm caused by working at a computer. But RSI and upper limb disorders can be used to describe the same group of medical conditions. You may also see the same conditions referred to as work-related upper limb disorders, overuse injuries or musculoskeletal disorders.
These conditions are grouped together because they affect your upper limbs. Examples of these conditions include tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and frozen shoulder.
Report any possible RSI symptoms that you think are caused by the way you work to your employer as soon as possible because carrying on in the same way may make things worse. By law your employer must offer you help.
Your employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to try to prevent work-related RSI, and to stop existing RSI from worsening. You need to talk to your manager, human resources department or the occupational health department. It may make it easier for your employer to help you if your GP can give you a specific diagnosis, but often this won't be possible.
Ask your employer to carry out a proper risk assessment with you. This means he or she needs to:
You may need to take time off work, but once you begin to feel better it can help to get back into work, gradually building up your hours. Always seek medical advice about what is best for you. Following your risk assessment, your employer should give you specific advice. This may involve changing your duties or the way you work.
Yes, but many people don't realise that they have RSI until their symptoms have worsened. Early symptoms can include mild tingling, aching or twinges in your fingers, hands or arms, usually towards the end of a long day at work.
It can be difficult to know what is happening to you when you first have symptoms of RSI but it's really important to take action to get treatment. Ignoring any pain you have and carrying on as usual can make things worse. As soon as you notice any possible RSI symptoms talk to your employer and your GP. The symptoms of RSI can progress and may eventually lead to pain that stops you from doing everyday activities. Your exact symptoms will vary depending on the specific RSI condition you have.
Potentially, but there are things you can advise him to do to reduce his risk of getting RSI.
Any movement of your hand or arm that is repeated over a long period of time can put you at risk of developing RSI. Using games consoles and texting on mobile phones all involve repetitive movements, so it's important to follow advice about preventing RSI. Suggestions for ways to prevent RSI are shown below.
If your child already has symptoms of RSI, such as tingling and soreness, don't ignore this. Ensure that he takes regular breaks from the activity that is causing pain. Encourage your child to follow the advice above. If he is still having the same symptoms after a couple of weeks, take him to see his GP. Keep notes on times when your child has the pain or other symptoms, and on how long he spends on the games console, computer or mobile phone.
Produced by Louise Abbott, Bupa Health Information Team, August 2011.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
Publication date: August 2011
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