01.07.2015 Wellbeing

Avoiding RSI

Naturopath Lyn Craven suggests ways of beating this painful and common injury of overuse

Repetitive Strain Injury, commonly known as RSI, affects so many people in varied ways, whether in the work environment, sporting or personal activities. In fact, it is a general term for any injury caused by overusing or overstressing a muscle, nerve, tendon or soft tissue. This type of injury results from repeatedly straining or stressing a certain part of the body resulting in injury.


You may start experiencing minor aches and pain, some muscle weakness, numbness or tender areas as a result of inflammation. Initially, you may not realise there is something wrong but underneath these aches and soreness RSI is starting to manifest. If left untreated and you persist with activities that have resulted in the discomfort a full-blown RSI will result.

Types of RSI

This really depends on part of the body that has been overused. While RSI is commonly experienced in the arms and hands it can occur anywhere in the body in disorders such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), Tennis Elbow (TE), Golf Elbow (GE) and Bursitis.

No matter the type of RSI you develop you need to seek appropriate treatment straight away otherwise chronic cases can become quite debilitating and limit your ability to do normal tasks. The condition can be very painful and severe cases have been known to take many months to completely heal and regain strength. If you persist in doing the tasks that have contributed to the RSI then it takes much longer to resolve and ongoing weakness can occur even after treatments.

Likely candidates

They include people involved in various sporting activities or regular fitness/gym classes, tradespeople, those who work in environments where the same task is conducted many times a day or over a period of time, or even by lifting very heavy items.

Everyday activities that can put you at risk of RSI include using the mouse for computers, handling the telephone with the same hand, favouring one shoulder for carrying heavy bags, or dragging a shopping trolley behind you with one arm. Trade work could involve painters (same hand/arm), or any trade that requires overuse of one limb, so you need to be mindful of how you use the body to execute your tasks.

Steps to avoid it

Often we overuse one side of the body and we need to learn to polarise and switch sides. The same applies with playing sport - tennis is an obvious example. So a recommendation might be to choose another sport activity where you can polarise the body, for example swimming (turning each side) and pilates. Initially, you may need to do a couple of extra stretches/reps on the side of the body that is weaker since I have seen over developed muscles on that side of the body which is constantly being used. We need to build up strength on the weak side to balance the body.

Change your activities, mix your sports, balance shopping in both hands or switch hands for carrying, or talking on the telephone especially in busy reception environments. Many people now use headphones to offset this problem.

Always correct your seating position and desk if you work in an office and avoid lounging on a soft sofa - these are the worse things for your back, hips or neck! Sit on a firm surface with a good back rest, which also applies to car seats when driving.

By mixing activities and alternating the sides of body you use you help change your focus and energy, which, in turn, helps to rebalance your body physically, mentally and energetically.

Discuss any concerns you may have within the workplace with your OH&S department since this is a very important responsibility on behalf of the employer to ensure your comfort and safety at all times with work stations and equipment or machinery used.

You also need to rest (even while receiving regular weekly treatments) so that would mean stopping the activity that has contributed to the problem for a period of time. This may prove an issue with many people, particular regarding work and daily activities like washing, lifting the baby, cooking or shopping. Placing the injured arm in a sling can help you so you can still do some of these activities but also serves as a reminder to avoid using the injured arm.

I am not in favour of strapping forearms in cases of CTS but slings are good - you can remove them when sitting so you can allow circulation to flow efficiently. If fingers are not injured you can move and stretch them to improve circulation even more, not just to the hands but also the forearms.

Helpful Therapies

Receive regular weekly treatments in the form of Bowen therapy, remedial massage and acupuncture to help re-align and balance the body. A professional practitioner who is also trained in naturopathy can offer you antiinflammatory remedies in the form of homoeopathy, and specific minerals and nutrients to give strength to tendons, tissues and nerves.

Bowen therapy is a wonderful non-invasive gentle therapy that helps with a wide range of injuries including all RSI problems. This is applied over loose clothing and is very relaxing. I have seen RSI cases resolve in 4-6 sessions depending on how long the person has suffered from the disorder. I would also suggest supporting remedies to give strength to tendons, tissues and replenish any deficiencies that may be present while alleviating inflammation with homoeopathy.

Acupuncture is also very good for trapped nerves which issue sharp painful sensations or numbness. Bowen therapy helps free up pinched nerves and can be used in conjunction with acupuncture on stubborn cases.

Liniments can be applied to assist with helping pinched nerves and bringing nourishment to the nerve via improved blood flow and circulation.

Sports or remedial massage is much deeper in its application so many people may find this uncomfortable to receive, especially when there is a lot of inflammation. Sports massage therapists are also trained in acupressure and trigger point so enquire before the treatment since these techniques are very good for working on stubborn deep areas that are not generating too much pain with inflammation.

Energy Frequency can also be used often in the form of TENS machines to support the above if required. Many devices that are used overseas that are not presently recognised by the TGA, such as various types of micro current frequency, have been known to resolve pain and improve tissue integrity.

As a naturopath I would always supplement treatment with anti-inflammatory homoeopathics and appropriate minerals that help strengthen tendons, tissues and also give strength to bones. This is so important to help prevent an underlying weakness in future. Often people who have mineral deficiencies fail to respond quickly to various treatments and have slower recovery.

Education for the patient and the body is necessary and appropriate exercises should be included in the weekly treatments. Once RSI is resolved, I recommend ongoing maintenance treatments maybe every 3-6 weeks, especially if the sport/job/task is continued. This way you strengthen the body, improve your posture and increase your flexibility for the future. This lessens any further injuries occurring. Prevention is the key in all things!

Lyn Craven is a Practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki Therapist, Meditation Teacher, a Corporate Health Presenter with 20 years, experience. She has also produced a meditation CD assisting people manage stress. www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804