According to most recent studies, the damage caused by repetitive strain injuries results from structural changes in the muscle fibers as well as decreased blood flow in the affected areas. Nerves can also be involved (as in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) but nerve compression is not the first problem that occurs. If you're experiencing nerve pain it's because something – usually damaged tissue and inflammation – is pressing down on the nerve, which is what causes the numbness, tingling and loss of mobility that goes along with carpal tunnel syndrome and other RSIs.
But don't take my word for it. If you're experiencing wrist pain, I recommend you do some homework to get a better understanding of what's really causing your pain. It might not be carpal tunnel!
A good place to start is this study on "Overuse Syndrome." A group of scientists took biopsies from the hand muscles of injured and normal subjects, which allowed them to study the structural damage in the muscle fibers and see how it lined up with the severity of the person's symptoms. In another study, biopsies were taken from neck muscles, which revealed that reduced local blood flow was found in the injured areas. In short, the greater the pain, the greater the reduction in blood flow.
So how should you deal with your wrist pain? One way may be to increase your circulation. Here's a pretty good article on how to increase circulation to your arms. Apparently, in this sedentary world of ours, we need to work a little harder to keep our blood moving.
Oh, and if you are using your trackpad to click on any of these links, STOP RIGHT NOW! Read my posts on the ergonomic carpal tunnel mouse and the joys of voice recognition software. I'm using it right now.