Dr. Linda Holzer
Professor of Music (Coordinator of Piano Studies)
UA Little Rock

What is RSI?

RSI is the abbreviation for Repetitive Strain Injury. The term covers several different physical conditions, such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, and focal dystonia. Symptoms may include aches, shooting pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms or hands.

Another name for Repetitive Strain Injury is Cumulative Trauma Disorder. The terms are used synonymously in medicine. Typically, the injury does not appear suddenly. Rather, painful symptoms develop over a period of time, after days, weeks, or perhaps months of activity.

The purpose of this web site is to address RSI as it applies to keyboard users at the computer. Among those who are at risk for RSI in general are computer users, athletes, musicians, factory workers, dental hygienists, and surgeons, in short, anyone who engages in repetitive physical activity daily at a certain level of intensity.





What causes RSI?

It may be helpful to think of the cause in terms of a forumula:

Muscle Tension + Incorrect Posture + Repetitive Motion + Over-Use = RSI

This formula is adapted from the web site "A Patient's Guide to Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD)."

We tend to associate RSI more with those who are over 25, because when we are younger, our bodies are more flexible, more resilient, and our daily physical activities tend to be more varied. However, it is possible for young computer users to develop RSI if they aren't careful.


Can RSI be Prevented?

Yes. Many doctors and physical therapists believe that RSI can be prevented. A number of the suggestions for healthy keyboarding presented here are drawn from the Musical Wellness movement as related to piano performance, especially from the work of Prof. Barbara Lister-Sink, and her DVD, Freeing the Caged Bird. Developing Well-Coordinated, Injury Preventive Keyboard Technique.

It is generally understood among pianists that in order to play comfortably, avoiding RSI, one must:

1. learn about the basics of biomechanics
2. develop kinesthetic awareness – notice how you are using your body. Become aware of the difference between unhealthy postures and gestures that involve unnecessary tension, versus healthy ones that allow muscles to freely contract and release. Be able to FEEL the difference, and consciously make healthy choices
3. Practice Efficient Muscle Use
4. Use Optimal Skeletal Alignment: Sit up Straight!

The same principles apply to healthy keyboarding at the computer keyboard. To prevent RSI it is recommended that you learn healthy warm-up techniques, the importance of good posture, and about ergonomically designed equipment for computer work stations. All of these can help prevent RSI.

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