Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

What is Repetitive Strain Injury? The term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is used to describe pain that is felt in muscles, nerves and tendons and is caused by repetitive movement and overuse. RSI is the more commonly used term for work related upper limb disorders or non-specific upper limb pain.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms usually develop gradually and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms include:

  • pain, aching or tenderness
  • stiffness
  • throbbing
  • tingling or numbness
  • weakness
  • cramp

It can take many forms including:

Initially symptoms may only be noted when carrying out a particular repetitive task but symptoms can progress and become constant. An indicator of RSI is pain that goes away when a person is not working. There are 3 stages:

  1. Mild – pain, aching and tiredness of the wrists, arms, shoulder or neck at work only. May last for weeks or months and is reversible.
  2. Moderate – pain, aching and tiredness occurring earlier in the working day. There may be visible signs such as swelling. Pain at night which may disturb sleep.
  3. Severe – pain, aching, weakness and fatigue are experienced even at rest. Sleep is often affected and even light tasks may be difficult.

What causes RSI? RSI is caused by the overuse of muscles and tendons in the upper body. The risk of RSI is increased where a person carries out repetitive tasks, does a high intensity activity for long period without rest and/or has to work in an awkward position. Cold temperatures and vibrating equipment may also increase the risk and make symptoms worse as can stress.

The types of repetitive activity can include twisting, pushing, pulling, lifting, reaching, squeezing and hammering.

What can I do if I have RSI? If you think RSI has been caused by your job you should advise your employer and/or occupational health representative. You may also wish to speak to your GP.

Your employer should assess the work that you do to see if any changes could be made to improve your symptoms.

Employers should consider the risk of RSI at all times even if their employees have not complained of symptoms. Simple solutions include regular breaks and rotation of tasks.

Can I make a claim? It is possible to make a claim against an employer for RSI. It is necessary to prove that the condition was caused by your work and that your employer, had they acted appropriately, could have prevented the condition from developing.

Is there a time limit? A claim must be made within 3 years of the ‘date of knowledge’ of the injury. The date of knowledge is the first time that the injured person thinks that they have developed a work related condition. It is important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. A person may not initially realise that they have RSI but the medical records may say otherwise. The approach of the Courts in this regard has been fairly strict.

If you think that you have developed RSI as a result of your work and would like advice about making a claim please contact Tracey Barton on 01752 292311.

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