Symptoms of RSI
Symptoms of repetitive strain injury

In this section we will provide a general list of symptoms that you may encounter with a repetitive strain injury and then each specific RSI will be evaluated so you can attempt to self diagnose (please remember that this should only be used as a guide and if you do believe that you have an RSI based on symptoms listed here you should always seek the professional guidance of your doctor).


General RSI Symptoms

The overriding general symptom of a repetitive strain injury is pain. Usually this is in the local area affected by the RSI, however, this is not always the case. For example, a pinched nerve in the shoulder region could be the reason for a hand based RSI, so it is important to be aware that there may be a certain degree of linkage between injuries.

Pain will usually manifest itself in the muscles or joints and can affect the shoulders, neck, upper back, arms wrists, hands and fingers amongst others.

Tingling, numbness, tightness, burning, swelling and general soreness are often experienced along with a feeling of weakness in the affected area.

Some may experience a different colouration in the skin and/or a change in shape of the affected region.

Tiredness can often be associated with a repetitive strain injury. The actual pain itself can have a weakening affect, however, depending on the type and severity of the RSI, it can also affect sleeping patterns.

In the early stages of an RSI it is common to have one or two of the symptoms during the type of activity that brings on the pain, but once the activity has ceased, the symptoms will also disappear. For example, if you are a typist you may experience RSI type symptoms during the day whilst typing, but once you have finished work (or over the weekend) you will not suffer any symptoms. It is important to note that although the pain may be manageable (and it may disappear for large periods of your day) it could develop into a more severe case producing greater pain with more frequency (the RSI symptoms may even become irreversible if the case is sufficiently advanced) if the source of the RSI is not tackled and treatment is not sought.


Specific RSI Symptoms

Although the symptoms of RSI are generally fairly similar, each specific type of respective strain injury will have a specialised set of symptoms. We will provide the symptoms for the following list of RSI's.

  • Bursitis
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
  • DeQuervain's syndrome
  • Diffuse RSI
  • Dupuytren's contracture
  • Dystonia (writers cramp)
  • Epicondylitis
  • Gamekeeper's thumb
  • Ganglion
  • Raynauds disease
  • Tendinitis
  • Tenosynovitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome

Bursitis symptoms

Bursitis symptoms are similar to those of tendonitis and you will experience stiffness, which may cause mobility problems, and pain surrounding the affected region. Sleeping patterns may be affected depending on which part of the body has the Bursitis.


Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms

The symptoms common of cubital tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness and even a paralysis of the ring and little finger. The symptoms have also been known to continue up the arm. Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms can be differentiated from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome because different fingers are affected.


DeQuervain's syndrome symptoms

The symptoms of DeQuervain's syndrome are localised to the wrist area and will usually encompass a painful, tender wrist along with a swelling along the thumb side of the wrist. A consequence of this is that the sufferer will encounter difficulty in gripping objects.


Diffuse RSI symptoms

Due to the non-specific nature of Diffuse RSI conditions, symptoms are difficult to catalogue. If there is an actual diagnosable condition, the sufferer may undergo hand or wrist pain, which may spread to the upper arm region. Diffuse RSI sufferers may note a change in skin colour and temperature in the affected area.


Dupuytren's contracture symptoms

Dupuytren's contracture symptoms manifest themselves as an initial lump in the palm of the hand near the base of the fingers. Over time, the skin will pucker and tissue will begin to thicken producing cord-like bands on the ring and little fingers. Eventually the fingers that are affected will begin to bend involuntarily to the extent that they cannot be straightened properly.


Dystonia (Writers Cramp) symptoms

Sufferers of writerís cramp will have an ongoing pain in the hand and forearm region. If the condition is Dystonic writerís cramp, which is not classified as a repetitive strain injury, but rather a malfunction of the central nervous system, the sufferer will have involuntary muscle spasms in the hand, which can be quite violent.

Epicondylitis symptoms

Symptoms of Epicondylitis, or more commonly known Tennis Elbow, are a dull ache in the forearm with an exacerbation of pain when the arm is twisted, bended or an object is gripped. If tennis elbow has existed as a condition for some time the pain can spread to the middle and/or ring fingers as well as the elbow itself. There can be a noticeable stiffness of the elbow joint, but swelling is not associated with this RSI condition.


Gamekeeper's thumb symptoms

Gamekeepers thumb is essentially a less severe case of skiers thumb as the gamekeeper's thumb RSI will have built up over a number of years and gradually caused pain as opposed to skiers thumb which typical occurs as part of a fall. Symptoms will include localised pain, a weakening and feeling of clumsiness in the thumb region and some swelling.


Ganglion symptoms

The symptoms of a ganglion are a swelling of a localised area usually on the fingers or wrists. Ganglions can grow over time and very often disappear without need for treatment. They can be painful if accidentally knocked against a hard surface and depending on the size of the ganglion cyst and the location, it can restrict movement.


Raynaudís disease symptoms

When a person is suffering from raynaudís disease their affected fingers will turn a deep blue or a white colour due to the vessels in the hand constricting. As a consequence, circulation to the extremities will fail and the finger will deform. In the worst case scenario, Gangrene could set in. Sufferers have reported that their fingers will often perspire; there is pain in the fingers and also a tingling sensation.


Tendonitis symptoms

Tendonitis sufferers will encounter localised pain, tenderness and a lack of mobility in the affected limbs due to a thickening or scarring of the surrounding tissue. Tendinitis is a gradual repetitive strain injury unless the tendinitis is caused by muscle tearing.


Tenosynovitis symptoms

Tenosynovitis will cause the surfaces of the tendon and sheath to become rough and inflamed. This will be as a consequence of overuse and the sufferer will feel and aching and tenderness in the area. It is not uncommon for the joints to become stiff, to have shooting pains along the arm and creaking tendons. If the swelling is localised to the thumb, this may signify a case of DeQuervain's syndrome.


Thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms

Thoracic outlet syndrome sufferers will encounter pain in the arms, shoulders or neck with a feeling of weakness, and a tingling numb sensation. Thoracic outlet syndrome can affect mobility, for example if the symptoms are in the arm is may cause pain to straighten the arm or lift it above a certain height.

If you believe that symptoms described on this site sound similar to your own symptoms that have been directly caused as a consequence of your employment, you may be able to make an injury claim against your employer. Additional information can be found at the Workplace Injury website.