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Repetitive Strain Injury Symptoms

Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI, is an injury caused by (amongst other things) carrying out repetitive tasks, forceful actions, vibrations or working in awkward positions. It is associated with tasks such as working in front of computers, driving, sleeping awkwardly and lifting heavy items.

There are two types of RSI; one is a recognised medical condition (such as tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome) whilst the other is RSIs that do not fit within known medical conditions and where there is a lack of the usual symptoms such as inflammation or swelling. This type of RSI is known as diffuse RSI or non-specific syndrome.

Symptoms of RSI

Symptoms of RSI do not always appear immediately, instead they tend to present themselves over time and include:

  • Painful / tender arms
  • Painful / tender back
  • Painful / tender shoulders
  • Painful / tender wrists
  • Painful / tender hands
  • Painful / tender thumbs
  • Burning sensations
  • Numbness
  • Physical / muscle weakness
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Lack of endurance

If you are suffering from RSI then you will find that the above symptoms will increase during physical activity such as working, travelling or playing sports.


In most cases, especially when the RSIs is in its infancy stages, it can simply be treated with a combination of rest, exercises and massages. If however the RSI is allowed to continue for years without rest then surgery may become necessary.

In addition to the above, ergonomic changes to workstations and driving positions will also treat RSI and reduce the chances of it appearing again in the future. The following are some common RSI prevention techniques when using computers, but they can be extended to most RSI related activities:

  • Typing using a neutral wrist position (using a flat keyboard)
  • Reduced usage of the mouse
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Sitting up straight
  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Adjusting your seating to a position that provides support

 Employer’s Duties

Employers are responsible for all health and safety at work. Under legislations like the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, it is an employer’s duty to help prevent their employees from getting RSIs by take actions to train and educate them. Employers also have a responsibility to risk assess all employees to see whether they require special ergonomic equipment and to keep records of all health and safety incidents. This duty includes making sure that all workstations meet the basic requirements such as: adjustable chairs, suitable lighting, appropriate screen coverings, keyboards, mice and desks.

If employers require their employees to work from home then workstations at home will also need to be assessed. In addition employers also have to pay for eye tests for employees if they are requested to do so.

Further information on an employer’s duties in this regard can be found through the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

If the employer has acted in accordance with their responsibilities then they could be protected from being sued as it then becomes the employee’s responsibility to work in accordance with the instructions provided by the employer.


As employers have a duty of care to their employees, any breach of that duty will means that the employee can make a compensation claim against the employer, which if successful, will be paid out by the employer’s insurance company.

Employees should not be fearful of bringing such a claim as an employer cannot lawfully take disciplinary action or harass the employee following a claim.

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