RSI, Osteoarthritis and Wrist Pain - Great Health Guide
RSI, Osteoarthritis and Wrist Pain

RSI, Osteoarthritis and Wrist Pain

Written by Margarita Gurevich & Justin Balbir

In the previous article we looked at carpal tunnel, a common cause of wrist pain. In this article we will highlight RSI, osteoarthritis and wrist pain and how physiotherapy can help these conditions.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Repetitive Strain Injury is a condition that describes injuries occurring as a result of overuse. While our bodies are built for movement and repetition, sometimes this repetition can be excessive and ultimately lead to irritation, inflammation, damage and pain to certain soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system. This includes such structures as nerves, muscles and tendons.

This type of condition is especially common in the wrists, as there are many daily and occupational tasks which require many repetitions of the same movements. As an example, someone working on a conveyer belt having to repeatedly screw/unscrew objects or an individual who spends hours scrolling with their mouse while using a computer. These tasks require repeated use of specific muscles.

Risk will be increased if any of the following factors are present:

  • Prolonged performance of the particular task

  • Poorly fitted equipment

  • Working too quickly

  • Inadequate recovery time

  • Lack of training in optimal techniques

Treatment will vary largely, depending on the nature of the injury (i.e. which structures are damaged) and the type of work that has caused the injury. A simple intervention can be education around how to safely perform the task and what movements to avoid. Then, based on a thorough examination, treatment may include a mixture of hands-on therapy, soft tissue massage, stretching, strengthening, nerve gliding exercises, taping, electrotherapy, ultrasound and drug phoresis.

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Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis does not always have a clear and obvious cause. Those who have chronically overstressed their hands and wrists may be at higher risk, such as gymnasts or weightlifters. The likelihood of suffering from this condition increases as we age.

Wrist pain, loss of hand range of motion and decreased function are all typically seen with osteoarthritis sufferers. The extent of these may depend on how severe the condition has become; however, there is not always a direct correlation between the extent of arthritic changes and level of function.

Exercise is typically the best remedy for arthritis. Depending on what the individual can tolerate, this may range from very gentle active movements to higher level strength exercises. Range of motion and stretching exercises may also be prescribed if indicated.

When wrist pain does not permit exercise, passive treatments need to be utilised first. This can include ultrasound, electrotherapy, drug phoresis, gentle passive movements performed by the therapist, as well as massage of the surrounding musculature.

RSI and osteoarthritis are common conditions that cause debilitating wrist pain. However, with specific physiotherapy treatment and exercise these conditions can be alleviated.

Author of this article:
Margarita Gurevich is Senior Physiotherapist and uses Clinical Pilates, SCENAR Therapy & other evidence-based techniques, including Real Time Ultrasound and McKenzie Treatment. Margarita specialises in sports injuries, women’s health (including incontinence) and gastrointestinal issues. Margarita may be contacted via her website
Justin Balbir has a Bachelor of Health Sciences & Masters of Physiotherapy Practice. He has worked for five years as a sports trainer for the Ajax Football Club, with experience in soft-tissue massage & injury management. Justine specializes in manual therapy & sports injuries and may be contacted via website.

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