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The symptoms of repetitive strain injury (RSI) usually develop gradually. Most individuals are unable to pin point an exact occasion when they developed symptoms of pain, swelling and stiffness of the affected muscles. This is characteristic of RSI and differentiates it from acute sudden injuries caused due to an accident.
Symptoms of RSI vary from individual to individual and depend on the type of injury and the duration of strain.
For example, those suffering from excessive force or vibration injuries may complain of different set of symptoms compared to those with RSI due to an awkward or static posture or due to repetitive movements.
Symptoms may also range from mild to severe depending on the duration of RSI. (1-7)
Common symptoms include:
There are two main types of RSI: localised and diffused conditions.
In localized conditions detection is easier as the symptoms occur to a particular part of the body.
Diffused conditions are a challenge to diagnose as the exact site of injury remains undetected.
Localized RSI conditions include:
Common muscles involved are hand, elbows, shoulders, forearms, back, neck, knees etc.
The first stage of the symptoms may last for several weeks and usually begin as the sufferer noticing the symptoms when they are working on a particular repetitive action.
Symptoms lessen when the muscles or affected tendons are put at rest. This is called the mild stage or stage 1. It is called threatened over-use injury.
If left uncared for this initial stage worsens to cause longer periods of pain called stage 2 or moderate RSI. There may be swelling, redness, warmth over the affected area along with muscle or joint stiffness.
This lasts for several months. There is recurrent pain that persists at night and may disturb sleep.
At later stages the RSI becomes constant and becomes irreversible. This is severe RSI or stage 3. There may be pain, weakness, and fatigue even during sleep.
The sufferer may be unable to carry out even light tasks at home or work. Since this is irreversible it is called established over-use injury.
Early detection and treatment as well as prevention of further injury thus may help prevent long term complications and debility.