Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an umbrella term which was once used to describe a wide range of upper limb conditions that are said to be caused by a repetitive motion of the hand/upper limb. One of the main problems with the term RSI is that due to its general nature, it led to a one size fits all treatment regime which didn’t work for everyone. For this reason, RSI was removed as a diagnosis from medical textbooks many years back.

What do we call RSI now?

Today, RSI has been replaced with the term, Work Related Upper Extremity Disorder (WRUED). WRUEDs are grouped into two main types; specific and non-specific

Specific WRUEDs

These are conditions which are described and diagnosed with accurate tests and clearly defined symptoms. These include well known conditions such as

Non-specific WRUEDs

Hand or upper limb symptoms related to work without fitting into one of the well-known and described disorders are non-specific WRUEDs. Characteristics include symptoms such as pain, discomfort, fatigue, limited movement, numbness and tingling, and loss of power. A specific diagnosis is difficult as these symptoms occur without a pattern. Your hand therapist can assess your symptoms and a specific WRUED can be made in most cases.

What can hand therapy do for WRUEDs?

Many available treatment options, exercises and ergonomic measures can be considered. If you think you may have a WRUED, the first thing to do is to make sure of the diagnosis. Your hand therapist will help you with this.


Boocock M, et al. A Framework for the Classification and Diagnosis of Work-Related Upper Extremity Conditions: Systematic Review. Semin Arthritis Rheum 38:296-311 Elservier 2009