Treatment of RSI usually begins with attempts to change the conditions that caused the injury. Often, exercises and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed; in some cases surgery is necessary. Many workers' compensation cases and lawsuits relating to RSI have been brought against employers and product manufacturers. To avoid the high costs of RSI, some businesses have introduced ergonomic workstations and enforced rest periods.
It is most common among assembly line workers, computer workers, store checkout clerks, and professional musicians. Good posture, ergonomics and limiting time in stressful working conditions can help prevent or halt the progress of the disorder. Stretches, strengthening exercises, and biofeedback training to reduce neck and shoulder muscle tension can help heal existing disorders.
Some of these are:
Symptoms may be caused by apparently unrelated areas — for example hand numbness may be caused by a nerve being pinched near the shoulder. In the initial stages of RSI, an area may be in quite bad condition but not feel painful unless it is massaged, or weak unless a long endurance exercise is performed. Therefore all areas of the upper body are considered when evaluating an RSI condition.
The medical professional may prescribe orthopedic hand braces, but warn against self-prescription, or further injury might result. Medications that may be prescribed include Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to reduce swelling, or anti-convulsant medications such as gabapentin to reduce neuropathic pain. Cold compression therapy administered by the patient, or perhaps immediately followed by TENS therapy administered by a health professional, circumvents occupational stress and may be one of the simplest ways to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Soft tissue therapy works by decompressing the area around the repetitive stress injury thus enhancing circulation and promoting healing. Biofeedback can be used to reduce stress-related muscle tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Massage treatment (for acute pain and nerve trigger points). This is best administered by a trained therapist but self-massage is also sometimes helpful. Self-massage products like the Armaid have been developed specifically to target areas typically affected by RSI. Active release techniques are effective in reducing RSI symptoms by releasing the tension of the muscles and nerves of the injured area. You would need to visit a certified ART provider to receive this treatment. Stretches (for less acute pain and general maintenance).
Many doctors will prescribe occupational therapy or physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility. Some people with RSI find relief in specific movement therapies such as t'ai chi ch'üan, yoga, or the Alexander technique Exercise decreases the risk of developing RSI. Also, doctors often recommend that RSI sufferers engage in specific strengthening exercises, for example to improve posture. Surgery is generally used as a last resort and is not always effective.
In the mind/body approach, RSI is not seen as a structural injury, but as a psychosomatic condition. Some people with RSI have had success with treatments based on this theory, but it has not been widely accepted or systematically studied.
Adaptive technology ranging from special keyboards, mouse replacements and pen tablet interfaces to speech recognition software might be necessary. Pause software reminds the user to pause frequently and/or perform practices while working behind a computer. One such program is Workrave, an open-source free program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury. The program frequently alerts user to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts user to a predefined daily limit. Switching to a much more ergonomic keyboard layout such as Dvorak or Colemak. Switching to a much more ergonomic mouse, such as a vertical mouse or joystick mouse. Such mice may provide relief, but in chronic RSI they may only result in moving the problem to a different area. Switching from using a mouse to using a stylus pen with graphic tablet. Using a graphic tablet for general pointing, clicking, and dragging (i.e. not drawing) may take some time to get used to. However, it has the side benefit of improving hand-eye coordination. Switching to a trackpad such as a Smart Cat trackpad, which requires no gripping or tensing of the muscles in the arms.
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