Sore wrists or aching elbows? Here’s how to ease repetitive strain injury symptoms, according to a physio

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Jack Hinks, head of sports therapy talked to Stylist all about repetitive strain injury and how best to deal with it. We thought we’d share the full article with you here, enjoy!

If you’re struggling with a limited range of movement, repetitive strain injury (RSI) might be to blame. Here’s how a physio recommends dealing with it.

Aches and pains are part of life but when soreness worsens over time and starts to impact your daily routine, it’s probably worth investigating.

Repetitive strain injury (or RSI) isn’t a side effect of playing sports in the same way as DOMS is. And unlike the usual aches that often affect big muscle groups, RSI can happen to any part of the body that’s used to perform a repeated movement. So, what actually is repetitive strain injury, and what can we do if we think we’re experiencing it?


First off, if you do suffer with aching wrists or shoulders, it’s worth having your GP check for underlying conditions such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. If you get the all-clear from those, then it’s time to look at the cause of possible RSI.

Jack Hinks, head of sports therapy at Core Clinics tells Stylist: “RSI injuries can happen when you overuse a part of your body, especially if you use it in a way that’s not optimal.”

Hinks adds: “Although overuse is the most common reason for RSI injuries, awkward posture or movement patterns, fatigue and the use of tools or devices that add to the stress on your tissues can make things worse.”

As the name suggests, RSI occurs thanks to repetitively using a specific musculoskeletal area, whether that’s your hand, shoulder, arm or wrist. Mostly linked with upper body parts, it can affect any limb or joint and causes include typing, using handheld tools or playing sports such as golf or tennis.

Oh, and having bad posture can compound things – being hunched over your desk for hours means holding the same position, which is also classed as a repetitive movement.

While it makes sense to assume that moving about or simply no longer taking part in any activity that triggers symptoms could help, that isn’t the solution anyone wants to hear – especially if RSI is linked to a working environment or partaking in an activity you love.


While pain seems an obvious RSI symptom, the range of issues caused by overexertion is more far-reaching. Hinks explains that you might experience the following issues:

  • Pain that develops over time and increases in frequency and/or severity – especially with activity
  • Stiffness, cramping or throbbing in the affected area
  • Altered sensation (numbness, pins and needles, hot/cold sensitivity)
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness


In an ideal world taking preventative steps in modifying the way we do things is a proactive move to stop RSI reinjury.

Take a break from the activity to blame

If you’re experiencing symptoms, Hinks suggests: “If you can, take a break from activities that make your symptoms worse. If you can’t stop completely, take regular breaks to stretch and move. Check your posture and movement patterns; are your shoulders hunched or are your wrists unsupported when you work? If so, change things.”

Improve your work set-up

For repetitive job types, Hinks emphasises the importance of trying to improve your set-up and speaking to your employer for support.

Try cold and heat therapy

To soothe and reduce tissue inflammation, Hinks advises: “Try alternately applying cold packs and heat packs, taking over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatories (but only for short-term use) and doing gentle stretches and rotations of the affected areas.”

Strength strain the affected area

Looking forward, Hinks concludes: “Increasing the strength of the injured area with weight-bearing exercise will reduce the likelihood of injury recurring. A sports therapist or physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the best exercises for you.”

Visit your GP

Above all else, always seek help from a GP if you’re struggling with pain, inflammation or musculoskeletal weakness. While known to be a relatively common issue, RSI can require expert support and guidance. 

And the quicker you can make changes to your work or exercise set-up, as with any injuries, the better chance your symptoms will have to improve.

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