Treating repetitive strain injury

If you are diagnosed with repetitive strain injury (RSI), your GP will probably advise you to temporarily stop doing the task or activity that is causing your symptoms.

In some cases this might not be possible, for example if it is an activity you carry out for work. You may need to tell your employer about your RSI so that arrangements can be made at work to improve your symptoms.

There are many treatment options for RSI. They all aim to relieve pain and enable your strength and mobility to return. Treatment options include:

  • taking a course of anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • using a heat or cold pack, elastic support or splint
  • being referred to a physiotherapist for advice on posture and how to strengthen or relax your muscles (see below)
  • having steroid injections to reduce inflammation in an affected area (this is only recommended if an area has definite inflammation from a condition, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tenosynovitis)

Your doctor may also prescribe a short course of sleeping tablets if your RSI is preventing you from sleeping.

Self help

Often, small changes to your lifestyle and working environment can help to relieve symptoms of RSI.

Think about the activity that is causing your RSI. What is it, when do you do it and how long do you do it for? Could you spend less time doing the activity or take more regular breaks so you are doing it for shorter periods of time?

Some people with symptoms of RSI find that including exercise in their daily routine, such as walking or swimming, helps to ease their symptoms.

Physical and complementary therapies

‘Hands-on’ therapies including physiotherapy, massage and osteopathy may be available after a referral from your GP, but in some cases there may be a long wait for an appointment. If you wish to consider private treatment make sure that your therapist is registered with a professionally recognised organisation.

Read more information about hands-on therapies for RSI on the RSI Awareness website.

Many long-term sufferers of RSI use other types of complementary therapies and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, acupuncture and reflexology, to help relieve symptoms of RSI.

However, it should be stressed that these approaches will not work for everyone. Their success varies between individuals and their symptoms of RSI.

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