Office and Work – Understanding Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs)

Office and Work – Understanding Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs)

You might think that office work is more of a mental job rather than a physical one. However, desk work strains muscles and joints that keep working in the same fashion throughout the day.

Occupational tasks tend to be monotonous and routine and involve the same set of movements repeatedly. It not only strains the concerned muscles and their related joints but is also capable of causing serious damage over a period of time.

Consequences can be an inability to continue with the same job and developing a serious disability.

What is RSI or Repetitive Stress Injury?


RSI is an injury or damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves resulting from repeated movements. Work-related repetitive stress injuries may be caused by a variety of continuous activities such as:

  • Operating a computer mouse
  • Typing on a keyboard or typewriter
  • Writing
  • Lifting or gripping items

Occupational muscle stress is also faced by musicians, cleaners, cooks, craftsmen, and drivers, etc

What Causes RSI?


RSI is caused by overuse as the name suggests. It is a by-product of repeating the same movements for hours on end. The overused muscles that face the brunt are those that are not strong enough and the postures are faulty. So what exactly are the risk factors?

Some activities that can increase the potential risk of injury are:

  • You remain in the same posture for hours
  • You use the same limb or hand all the time. For example, if your job requires you to make phone calls most of the time, you would be holding a phone constantly in one hand.
  • Your posture or positioning is wrong. For example, you are keeping the mouse at a higher level than your elbows.  


 Common Types of RSIs and Their Symptoms


The body parts that are most affected by office-related RSI include wrists, hands, elbows, forearms, shoulders, and neck. This may cause orthopedic conditions such as,


  1. Bursitis


  1. Tennis Elbow


  1. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis


  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms develop gradually and become persistent and more intense with time.

It is very important to recognize the symptoms and adopt preventive and primary measures to ensure that the condition does not become chronic and serious.

Here are the common symptoms that you will experience in the muscles that you are using repeatedly:


  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Throbbing
  • Tenderness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Heat or cold sensitivity

The pain and weakness become gradually severe, preventing you from performing routine tasks. You may find it difficult to type, handle the computer mouse or even write.

Treatment For RSI


Office-related RSI is fairly mild in the beginning and if addressed early, it can be controlled effectively at the onset.

The treatment is conservative and initially, doctors prescribe conventional medication and physical therapy.

Dr. Tanveer Bhutani, sports injury specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Eva Hospital says,” Maintaining a workout regime is vital. Office goers tend to ignore joint health while pursuing ambitious careers.

As a result, repetitive movements cause overuse injuries and damage all-around health. It is similar to sporting injuries. Relieving pain and strengthening the muscles is

the prime concern in RSI treatment.”  Primary care consists of :


  1. RICE treatment- rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  2. Pain-relieving nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs
  3. Exercise
  4. Use of braces, bandages, or supporting devices to rest the muscles.
  5. Steroid injections in severe cases
  6.  Physiotherapy
  7. Workstation adjustments, e.g. your desk, chair, or other equipment.

Serious cases may require surgery to protect the joints from severe damage.

Tips for Preventing RSI


Do these standard adjustments in your way of working to make a world of difference:

Do not slouch. Maintain an erect posture. Back straight, shoulders squared and neck centered. It is the best way to protect your muscles from undue stress.

Adjust your workstation. The level and type of equipment at work should be supportive and comfortable. Align the elbow with the keyboard.

Refrain from sitting continually. Keep taking those breaks from sitting. Stand, walk and move about, at regular intervals.

Keep the monitor at eye level. You should not be looking down or up all the time. Keep the screen at an arm’s length away. If you make calls all the time, wear a headset.

Taking small breaks. Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch and flex your fingers and wrists. Take a walk, and do shoulder stretches. It is very important.


Little changes make a large difference in the prevention and recurrence of work-related repetitive stress injuries.