Roberts Jackson Discusses – What Defines Work Related Repetitive Strain Injuries?

Roberts Jackson Discusses – What Defines Work Related Repetitive Strain Injuries?

Repetitive Strain Injury is a term used to refer to a set of disorders called Work Related Upper Limb Disorders or WRULDS.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) it affects up to 500,000 workers each year – with 81,000 new cases in 2007/08 alone.

RSI covers a wide range of injuries to muscles, tendons and nerves. Usually hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders are affected but knees and feet can also be affected.

Types of RSI

There are many different names for RSI injuries, including:

  • Tenosynovitis
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Epicondylitis or ‘tennis elbow’
  • Golfers elbow
  • DeQuervain’s syndrome

What causes RSI

RSI is caused, or made worse, by continuous repetitive or pressurised finger, hand or arm movements, twisting movements, squeezing, hammering and pounding, pushing, pulling, lifting or reaching movements, too fast or excessive workloads, long hours, lack of variety or breaks, overuse, awkward grips or positions, using too much force, badly designed equipment and/or poor working environments (including low temperatures and stress).

What are the symptoms of RSI

Symptoms of RSI vary, they include:

  • Pain in the fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders
  • Tenderness,
  • Heaviness in the arms and wrists
  • Swelling,
  • A tingling sensation in the fingertips
  • Numbness
  • Restriction of the joints
  • Loss of strength and grip in the hand, and
  • Loss of sensation and whiteness on the fingers

Identified disorders, occupational risk factors and symptoms


Occupational risk factors


Tendonitis/tenosynovitisRepetitive wrist motions
Repetitive shoulder motions
Sustained hyper extension of arms
Prolonged load on shoulders
Pain, weakness, swelling, burning sensation or dull ache over affected   area
Epicondylitis (elbow tendonitis)Repeated or forceful rotation of the forearm and bending of the wrist   at the same timeSame symptoms as tendonitis
Carpal tunnel syndromeRepetitive wrist motionsPain, numbness, tingling, burning sensations, wasting of muscles at   base of thumb, dry palm
DeQuervain’s diseaseRepetitive hand twisting and forceful grippingPain at the base of thumb
Thoracic outlet syndromeProlonged shoulder flexion
Extending arms above shoulder height
Carrying loads on the shoulder
Pain, numbness, swelling of the hands
Tension neck syndromeProlonged restricted posturePain

Can work cause RSI?

The majority of the injuries are caused by repetitive work without sufficient rest and recovery, usually accompanied by some element of force or twisting and lengthy periods where the body or part of it remains in the same position or awkward posture.

Certain job roles can cause RSI if they involve repetitive movements. The following are examples of such job roles;

  • Production workers
  • Packers
  • Audio typists
  • Labourers

Employer’s duties to prevent and control RSI

All employers have legal duties to ensure their employees’ health and safety at work, provide safe work methods, workplaces and equipment, and give employees health and safety information and training.

Employers must also conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments. Therefore employers must ensure they understand the risk factors associated with each job and then take steps to ensure that risk is minimised to the lowest level practicable. The following factors need to be considered when carrying out a risk assessment;

  • Gender and age of employee
  • Job role
  • Specific characteristics of employees i.e. height
  • Methods of reducing the risks
  • Work station

How can RSI conditions be treated?

The treatment of such conditions can include the following:

  • Restriction of movement
  • Application of heat or cold
  • Exercise
  • Medication and surgery

If you believe you suffer with a work related repetitive strain injury and would like to get some free legal advice or just have an informal chat with one of our advisors please call 0800 001 4496 or submit your details and we will get right back to you.