Repetitive strain injury is a term that encompasses a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions that usually occur in sedentary workers. The musculoskeletal injury occurs due to an accumulation of microtrauma caused by repeated soft tissue overload (Ratzlaff 2007). In other words, tissues in the body are repeatedly injured with each injury being minor but, cumulatively, causing serious pain and damage to the body. Repetitive strain injury is not new phenomenon. It was first reported in the early 1900’s as telegraphic operator’s cramp in men who operated Morse keys (Youngson 2005). As the name suggests, repetitive strain injury affect those who perform repeated tasks for long periods of time. Most people affected are those who spend the majority of their work day sitting at a desk or using a computer. Other groups who frequently suffer from repetitive strain injury are those who use a particular muscle or group of muscles repeatedly such as musicians, knitters, and sewers. Factors contributing to repetitive strain injury are repeated use of same muscles, poor posture and sitting for long periods of time.
Manifested primarily as pain in the forearm, shoulder or neck, repetitive strain injury is more common in women, tall people, smokers or those who are overweight. (Youngson 2005). Symptoms include pain anywhere in the fingers, hands, arms or upper spine. Repetitive strain injuries usually begin gradually and progress through distinct stages (Youngson 2005) and are easily manageable in the early stages. It is important to recognize the symptoms and treat early.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common type of repetitive strain injury and results from compression of the median nerve as it traverses the carpal tunnel in the wrist (Al-Otaibi , 2001). In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, other nerve entrapment syndromes are classified as repetitive strain injury. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs at the elbow when the ulnar nerve becomes entrapped usually the result of an individual rests their elbows on hard surfaces for a long period of time. Guyon tunnel syndrome occurs at the wrist and is caused by prolonged flexion and extension of the wrist (Al-Otaibi, 2001). According to Al-Otaibi, other common types of repetitive strain injury include tendon tenosynovitis of the upper extremities and trigger finger tenosynovitis, where patients complain of a snapping, locking or popping of the digits.
Repetitive strain injury is not without controversy. Many have been reluctant to label it as a work related injury in order to avoid payment to the injured party through insurance claims. Recognizing repetitive strain injury as a work related injury could force employers to make changes to the environment in which their employees work or, require special consideration be given to those employees who display symptoms of repetitive strain injury. According to Al-Otaibi, a study of 54 patients concluded that specific disorders of tendon...