Repetitive strain injury (RSI)Treatment

Treatment for repetitive strain injury (RSI) depends on your symptoms and whether a specific condition has been diagnosed.

Treatment for repetitive strain injury (RSI) depends on your symptoms and whether a specific condition has been diagnosed.

Workplace health

If your RSI is caused by repetitive activity at work, the first step is to speak to your employer or occupational health representative.

It may be possible to modify your tasks to relieve the symptoms. Small changes to your lifestyle and working environment can often help.

Think about your working environment and what activity may be causing the problem. Take steps to reduce how much time you spend doing this activity or change how you do it.

If you can't stop doing it completely, take regular, short breaks to stretch and move about. Software packages that remind you to take regular breaks from the keyboard can be useful.

It can also be helpful to get advice from an occupational health representative at work on how to set up your work station.

Read more about workplace health, including:

Exercise

Some people with symptoms of RSI find that including exercise in their daily routine, such as walking or swimming, also eases their symptoms.

Read about the benefits of exercise and physical activity guidelines for adults.

Treatment options

See your GP if your RSI symptoms continue, despite attempts to modify your work activities. A number of treatments are available that may help.

If you have a specific medical condition, well-established treatments can often be recommended. These include self-help measures, medication, or even surgery, in some cases.

Some of these treatments may help even if a specific medical condition can't be diagnosed from your symptoms. However, in these cases, their effectiveness may be limited.

Possible treatment options for RSI include:

  • medication – including paracetamol, short-term use of anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, or pain receptor-blocking medications, such as some forms of antidepressants, if you're getting severe symptoms or interrupted sleep 
  • cold packs, elastic supports or a splint
  • physiotherapy – including advice on posture and stretches or exercises to help strengthen or relax your muscles
  • steroid injections to reduce inflammation in an affected area (these are only recommended if an area has definite inflammation caused by a specific condition, such as carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • surgery to correct specific problems with nerves or tendons (for example, if you are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome or Dupuytren's contracture) if other treatments haven't helped

Physical and complementary therapies

"Hands-on" therapies, including physiotherapy, massage or osteopathy, may be available after a referral from your GP, but in some cases there may be a long wait for an appointment.

If you decide to have private treatment, make sure your therapist is registered with a professionally recognised organisation.

Many people who have RSI for a long time try other types of complementary therapies and relaxation techniques to help relieve their symptoms, such as:

However, while some people with RSI find these helpful, there's little scientific evidence to suggest they're consistently effective for RSI.

Page last reviewed: 18/11/2018
Next review due: 18/11/2021