Maybe they are associated with the increase in use of home computers, computer associated jobs, or continually sending text messages on personal mobile phones, but certainly the number of cases of both carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and repetitive stress injury (RSI) also seem to be rising rapidly.
The question is frequently asked. Are CTS and RSI the same conditions, or are they both different conditions having similar symptoms and causes? This article will attempt to describe both conditions in terms of their difference and similarities.
The similarities are relatively easily described. Both carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury are both the result of work or activities, which involve continually repeated actions affecting various parts of the body.
However, CTS is specifically related to problems associated with the wrist and hand, while RSI, although it can apply to the wrist joint is more commonly related to other body joints like the shoulder, neck, elbow, knee, or ankle.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve and tendons run through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a bunch of connective tissue located between the palm of the hand and the wrist. The tunnel is only a small space, and any swelling of the tendons put unnatural pressure on the median nerve causing it to become compressed.
In CTS the symptoms of damage to the median nerve show as pain, tingling, and numbness. This is different to RSI when pain and tingling are experienced in the affected part, but no numbness is felt.
For some unknown reason, continual repetitive work does not affect all people with CTS. Some do not suffer from the condition at all, and CTS is uncommon in people involved in sports activity. Tennis players are much more likely to suffer from ‘tennis elbow’ which is an RSI condition rather than being carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pregnant women often suffer from CTS, probably due to hormonal changes and excess water retention, yet the condition frequently clears following the birth of the baby. But they are seldom diagnosed as having RSI.
Repetitive Stress Injury
Many people believe that RSI is very much a state of mind. This is not true, repetitive stress injury is real and is usually associated with overuse of the muscles in the arm, shoulders, neck, and knees. The repeated overuse places strain on the muscles and the surrounding connective tissue.
Muscles which are affected lower down by the arm cause pain in the wrist, resulting in the sufferer believing that he or she has carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury are not the same conditions. They both have similar causes and have similar symptoms, but they are both different conditions manifesting themselves in different ways.
Repetitive strain injury and the conditions that cause them
I just want to clear up a little bit of confusion about what RSI is. The first point I will clear up is the fact that the same condition comes under many other names. Some of these include RSI which stands both for repetitive stress injury and repetitive strain injury. It can also be known as occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) work-related upper limb disorder (WRULD) and non-specific arm pain.
Remember that RSI is basically an umbrella term for many localized injuries or conditions and that it is very common for a person suffering from a repetitive stress injury to be suffering from more than one of the following conditions at any one time. Some of the more common conditions that fall under the RSI umbrella are:-
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.
- Intersection syndrome.
- Stenosing tenosynovitis.
- Radial tunnel syndrome.
- Trigger finger/thumb.
- Tennis/golfers elbow
It is widely accepted that the best results are achieved by treating repetitive stress injury as a single general disorder.
Both RSI and CTS are readily treatable, typically by using anti-inflammatory medicines, and for severe cases of CTS, simple surgery will quickly relieve undue pressure on the median nerve.
Are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Stress Injury the Same Condition, Last Update: 19/7/2017