Over the last century, the workforce in Britain has made an unprecedented shift away from manual labour and toward sedentary office jobs. This has presented an entirely new set of safety challenges. Among the most notorious of these is the threat of Repetitive Strain Injury. This is a term used to describe long-term damage, caused by performing the same action over and over again.
What is RSI?
Any pain we feel in the muscles, nerves and tendons tends to be lumped into the category of Repetitive Strain Injuries. Most of the time, these are felt in the upper body – since it’s the arms, wrists and shoulders that we use to perform most tasks.
What causes RSI?
Any set of motions that puts stress on the same limited group of tendons and muscles can have the potential to cause RSI. Sometimes, it’s even a lack of motion: you might get a stiff neck from holding your head at an awkward angle for long periods.
A secondary cause of RSI is a failure to warm up properly, and to perform delicate tasks in cold temperatures. If you’re a plumber working in homes without central heating during the winter, for example, then you’re at risk – albeit in a slightly different way to an office worker.
What are the symptoms of RSI?
You might experience pain, aching, tingling or weakness in the affected parts of the body. To begin with, you might associate these symptoms with a particular action – but if you ignore the symptoms, then you might begin to feel them all the time.
How is it diagnosed?
Take your symptoms to your GP and have them take a look at the affected area. They might look to rule out a range of other conditions, including tendonitis and rotator cuff syndrome.
How is it treated?
The way that RSI is treated will tend to depend on the severity of the condition. If you’ve left the injury to deteriorate, then a more significant intervention might be warranted. Medication in the form of steroids is typically prescribed, as might be a round or two of physiotherapy. In extreme cases, you might need to go under the knife. This will necessitate a protracted recovery period, during which you’ll be unable to perform the task that leads to your RSI.
In almost every case, preventing your RSI is much easier than curing it. That means taking a break from the activity that causes the injury, as well as taking your physical fitness seriously. Review your posture and your ergonomics.
Not your fault?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, your employer has a duty to provide you with a safe working environment – which means, amongst other things, protecting you against repetitive strains. If you feel that your employer, or anyone else, has neglected this duty, it might be worth pursuing compensation through a personal injury claim.