Living with repetitive strain injury

Almost half a million Britons suffer from repetitive strain injury, commonly referred to as RSI. This is pain in the muscles, tendons, and nerves caused by overuse.

The upper body is most commonly injured, resulting in pain in the forearms, elbows, and shoulders. People with RSI usually experience tightness, burning, swelling, and a feeling of weakness in the area of the affected joint.


Sufferers of RSI experience pain in the area of the affected joint. Photo: Anneka James

The increased use of computers, console gaming, and iPods all contribute to the condition, as 18-year-old Charles Burdett knows only too well. He was diagnosed with RSI five years ago: “It developed from gaming on the computer and the constant use of the W, A, S and D directional computer keys,” he says. “It doesn’t affect my life in a big way at the moment. It’s only uncomfortable to tightly clench my left hand into a fist.”

Burdett treats his RSI by taking regular rests from gaming to stretch his fingers, and taking cod liver oil.

Mike Forrester set up repetitivestraininjury.org.uk after suffering himself: “There didn’t seem to be a great deal of information on the web about RSIs at the time so I tried to put together a comprehensive resource which would hopefully help other people who either have RSIs or believe that they may have an RSI.”

Forrester attributes his condition to the fact that he’s worked with computers over the course of several years.

RSI is treatable, however preventing it from developing is more important. Forrester suggests ways in which RSI can be prevented on his website: “When sat down, attempt to retain a good posture, no slouching! Ideally your head and back should form a straight line from your ears to your pelvis. When using the keyboard, try not to hit the keys on your keyboard too forcefully, and learn all the keyboard shortcuts to save you from unnecessary typing.

“Take regular breaks and stand up and stretch, as well as stretching your arms and wrists, and also straighten your fingers. If you are office based, try to look at objects in the distance occasionally rather than continuously starring at a computer screen.”

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