Repetitive Strain Injury Rsi Risks

Virtually any profession that requires repetitive motion of the hand, fingers, wrists and arms has a large number of personnel that develop a repetitive strain injury.

Causes of RSI

  • stress, tension, and tightness in the muscles of the arm
  • inflammation of the tendons in the wrist
  • repeated actions associated with typing and using a mouse
  • poorly designed workstations
  • poor posture
  • improper exercise techniques
  • stress
  • heavy workload
  • anything that places heavy, repeated stress on the wrist, hand or arm
  • vitamin deficiencies
  • wrist shape
  • neck and spine conditions
  • overall health
  • work habits
  • mental health.

Women at Higher Risk

Many studies indicate that women are at a higher risk for RSI than men. The hand-intensive nature of housework and typing contribute to this. Women also show an increased incidence in RSI symptoms while taking oral contraceptives and during pregnancy and menopause.


The force of the movement is a particular factor for RSI in typists. The fingers of typists whose speed is 60 words per minute may exert up to 25 tons of pressure each day. Taking frequent breaks throughout the day is a necessity.

Computer Users

Anyone who works at a computer is at risk for developing a RSI. Using a computer keyboard and a mouse may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Computer work often involves at least one of the following factors that predispose someone to injury:

  • repetition of movements and poor typing techniques, which stresses the tendons
  • working in an awkward position for long periods, which may pinch nerve groups
  • lack of recovery time or rest breaks
  • improper workstation configuration, which strains different areas of the body from neck to wrists.

The increased number of people using computers has triggered a surge in ergonomic designs for computer mouses and keyboards, but a lot has yet to be done.


Musicians comprise a special risk group for repetitive stress injuries. A large percentage of musicians develop physical problems related to playing their instruments. This risk is complicated if they are also computer users. Computer-induced tendonitis is aggravated especially by guitar and violin playing. The shock percussionists subject their wrists and arms to make them susceptible to a larger degree of injuries.

Other At-Risk Occupations

At high risk for RSI are those whose occupations combine force and repetitive motions in the fingers and hand for long periods of time. These individuals include those in the meat- and fish-packing industry as well as those using vibrating tools, such as jackhammers or chain saws. Meat packers have complained of pain and loss of function in their hands since the 1860s. Even today, the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in meat-, poultry-, and fish-packing industries can be as high as fifteen percent of all workers.

According to one study, workers in manual labor industries have the highest risk of CTS. In addition, high risks for CTS have been reported in many types of assembly line workers, cake decorators, postal workers, dentists and dental technicians.

Sports RSI

Repetitive strain injuries are not limited to the work place. Athletes are especially susceptible to RSI. The phrase “no pain, no gain” has become a dangerous motto to live by.

Skier’s Thumb: This condition results from an injury to a ligament that connects the thumb to the hand. It often occurs during a fall onto the outstretched hand while holding onto the ski pole. Prompt treatment is imperative to prevent chronic looseness in the thumb.

Golfer’s Elbow: Golfer’s elbow is a strain of the muscles on the inside of the forearm. This condition is a common result of overemphasizing the motion of the wrists during a swing. Under ideal circumstances minimal rotation of the wrists should occur. The power to drive the ball should come from the inertia of the downswing caused by a smooth chain of force transferred through the entire body.

Tennis Elbow: Tennis elbow is caused by inflammation of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the elbow. The forceful and repeated bending of the wrist causes tiny ruptures of the muscle and tendon around the inside of the elbow. Tennis elbow can become very painful and requires rapid medical attention.


The Helping Hand. (updated 2003). What are CTS and RSI?

Cross, D. (updated 2004). Repetitive strain injury: The importance of warming up.