Knowing what type of practitioner to consult for your RSI can be tricky and getting it wrong can cost you a lot of money. The short answer is: A therapist who will address the cause of the injury and provide you with practical advice that you can implement at work.
I was prompted to write this article by the following question in The Guardian: “I’m getting quite bad pains from my elbow to my wrist, which I think is due to constant keyboard work. Physiotherapy costs £40 a session and I can’t get it on the NHS. I’ve bought compressed support bands for £1 at Poundland and take ibuprofen. I don’t earn much so physio will be a massive cost for me; is it really worth it, or are there cheaper solutions?”
Overuse injuries, like the one described above, are caused by using the same body parts in the same positions too often.
How to get rid of repetitive strain injuries
If you want to get rid of RSI permanently, you need to:
Make sure that your workstation is set up in a way that puts minimum strain on your body. Nowadays there is a near endless variety of office equipment to choose from. A more compact keyboard can reduce the strain on your shoulders while an upright mouse may be the key to fixing your tennis elbow – the list goes on.
Take regular breaks. Most people know this. The problem is that making a cup of tea is not necessarily going to help your arms rest/recover during the break. There are specific movements or stretches that you can do to get the maximum benefit from your break. Our bodies are all different and these exercises will vary between individuals.
Get fit. Our bodies were made for movement and the best way to combat overuse injuries is through exercise that moves your whole body and gets the blood flowing. While exercises done during short breaks are great, they rarely increase blood flow to the same extent as other exercise. What type of exercise should you do? This will depend on your preferences and physical condition, but I would recommend something that involves both your upper and lower body.
Braces, massage, acupuncture, manipulation, medication and electrotherapy may make you feel better for a short while, but these treatments will not fix your RSI. You have to follow the 3 steps above to permanently sort out overuse injuries.
Who can treat your RSI?
My first choice would be a physiotherapist. Consulting one online, using a video link, may even be better than seeing one face to face in a clinic. Yes, I may be biased, but let me explain why I say this.
If you do the video call from a phone or tablet, you can position the device so that the physio can observe you while you work at your desk and make real time recommendations tailored to your specific situation. A big drawback of face to face consultations done in a physio practice is that, unless the physio visits you at work/home, they can only provide generic workstation advice.
Physios who provide online consultations are also able to diagnose your injury and provide you with the exercise advice that you need. They are very good at providing exercise and self-help advice because they cannot do any hands-on treatment.