Repetitive strain injury (cumulative trauma disorder): causes and treatment

Mt Sinai J Med. 1999 May;66(3):192-6.


Background: The computerization of the workforce in the last two decades has led to increases in the incidence of repetitive strain injury (RSI). U.S. Workers Compensation claims made by persons disabled in the upper extremities in 1989 were estimated to be $563 million.

Method: Through an investigation of factors that increase the likelihood of contracting an RSI in various industries, the authors suggest a relation between workplace conditions, lack of education about causes of RSI and improper use of equipment among contemporary workers.

Results: A medical term which analyzes the unique history and mechanism of the injury and offers a unique regimen of exercise, education, modalities and some pain management has proven to be the most effective treatment for RSI. Damage to muscle and tendon due to RSI generally cannot be surgically repaired. However, specific nerve-related disorders can be treated with surgery if other more conservative treatments prove ineffective.

Conclusion: Through foresight and education, industries in which specific factors render workers more likely to contract RSI can begin to take steps to minimize worker susceptibility to the disorder. Those industries will face large losses due to Workers' Compensation claims, disability pay, lawsuits and ultimately lower productivity.

MeSH terms

  • Computers
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*