Reducing the Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Reducing the Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

There is a common misconception that office workers are safe within their working environment as they are not exposed to harmful chemicals or heavy machinery. But there are hidden dangers that can impact heavily on a person’s health over time and can cause some great discomfort resulting in lengthy treatment and time off work. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) effects a huge amount of people throughout the UK, many of whom could have prevented the injury with proper equipment and education on the subject.


What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Before we go into how to help prevent developing RSI, it is important to know and understand what RSI actually is.

RSI is a painful condition which is generally associated with office and manual work that involves repeatedly performing a specific task for long periods of time. Although RSI is often connected with working with computers and manual work, you must be aware that you can also develop it if you don’t regularly carry out these sorts of activities too.

RSI can affect a number of parts such as your hands, arms and upper body and has been categorised into type 1 and type 2. Type 1 means the condition is recognised by medical professionals, such as:

· Writer’s Cramp

· Rotator Cuff Syndrome (shoulder pain)

· Tennis Elbow

· Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (pain or weakness in your forearm or hand)

· Tendonitis

Type 2 RSI is where the symptoms explained by a patient do not fit into the already defined syndromes associated with type 1. Also, there are no objective or measurable signs such as inflammation, swelling or problems with nerve function. It is sometimes called diffuse RSI or nonspecific pain syndrome.


What are the causes of RSI?

The main cause of RSI is frequent and repetitive movements of a particular part of the body. Typing on a keyboard and using a computer mouse a lot are very common examples. However there are other factors that can easily contribute which people need to keep in mind, such as poor posture, using excessive force whilst performing a movement and not having enough breaks from a repetitive task.

The exact reasons why RSI actually establishes is unclear within the medical industry. Also, it is still not clear why some people develop RSI over time during repetitive tasks, and others doing the same tasks do not develop it.

It has also been suggested that physiological workplace factors can contribute to RSI. This normally means stress at work which can increase muscle tension and/or affects how the body feels pain in general.


Preventing RSI

It is important that your working environment (for example, the layout of your workstation) is setup and designed so that your body is upright and without having to twist or stretch much during your work day. Working with your arms elevated above your head or sitting in a fixed position for long periods of time may significantly increase your risk of developing RSI.

Below is a diagram of an ideal workstation courtesy of Exeter Physio.



Ergonomic office chairs can be extremely effective when it comes to preventing RSI. They offer a wide range of adjustable functions to help make you sit more comfortably. An ill-fitted chair can put strain on awkward places and contribute to bad posture. Everyone is built differently and having a chair that suits you personally, can do wonders of good.

An office chair doesn’t have to be the only piece of furniture that is adjustable. Adjustable office desks can be equally as useful when it comes to being comfortable in the office.


The numbers around RSI


  • 18.9 is the average sick days taken per year of an employee suffering from RSI

  • 10% of sick notes in London are written for RSI

  • The cost to UK industry is likely to be between £5 billion and £20 billion annually

  • Small businesses found that 1 in 5 staff were suffering from musculoskeletal injuries

  • 6 people in the UK leave their jobs due to an RSI condition every day

  • Woman aged between 29-62 are most likely to be affected