The umbrella heading "Repetitive Strain Injuries" includes a number of disorders that derive from repeatedly carrying out the same movement. Over a period of time, a nerve or tendon becomes inflamed, forcing the patient to abandon his or her habitual activity until full recovery. Symptoms experienced by sufferers range from a dull ache to throbbing and acute pain, often accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation and loss of strength in hands and arms.
Repetitive Strain Injuries have been identified as occupational hazards: office workers and musicians (instrumentalists) are among the categories most likely to be affected.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, in 2001 there were over 65,000 cases of absence from work in private industry due to disorders caused by repetitive motion (Number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work by selected injury or illness characteristics and industry division, 2001). Of these, 26,800 were due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and 14,100 to tendonitis.
The most common forms of RSI affecting office workers are the following:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In US private industry in 2001, among major disabling injuries and illnesses, median days away from work were highest for carpal tunnel syndrome (25 days). (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.)
Wrist Tendonitis or Tenosynovitis
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Low back pain
This condition has been defined as the "complex of eye and vision problems related to near work, which are experienced during or related to computer use" (American Optometric Association). Symptoms may take the form of headaches, blurred vision, dry and irritated eyes, slow refocusing, neck and/or backache, sensitivity to light, double vision and color distortion. Risk factors include bad lighting, incorrectly positioned equipment, poor work habits and undetected visual defects.