A common problem is repetitive stress injury (RSI), also known as cumulative trauma injury. The most well-known RSI is probably carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes wrist and forearm pain. However, carpal tunnel is only the tip of the RSI iceberg.
Other repetitive injuries include thoracic outlet syndrome, DeQuervain's syndrome (inflammation of the thumb muscles), tendonitis (such as tennis elbow), and ligament injuries.
Repetitive stress can cause problems in your hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, neck, or back. Runners, heavy lifters, or other people who stress their legs and hip joints can have repetitive stress problems in their hips, knees, ankles, or feet.
Prevention includes using good body mechanics for any activity, including good computer ergonomics (discussed later), varying activities as much as possible, and taking frequent breaks from repetitive activities.
Any repetitive activity, be it work, hobby, or sport, can potentially cause injury.
In my massage practice, I sometimes heard people say, "I’ve been doing this [insert activity] for years and it never hurt before." That is the nature of repetitive stress injuries; they develop slowly over time. Some people are more susceptible to injury than others.
Common symptoms of RSI problems include:
Carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet syndromes involve nerve compression. What is compressing the nerves? In most cases, tight muscles. Massage releases muscle tension, which relieves the compression and pain. Regular stretching can also help.
In other RSIs (such as tendonitis or ligament injuries), muscle, tendon, or ligament fibers are torn. Specific massage on the injured fibers speeds healing by breaking up adhesions (stuck together tissue) and excess scar tissue and by increasing circulation, which brings in nutrients and removes waste products.
Regular massage can help any problem caused by tight or injured muscles or injured tendons or ligaments.
Consider massage before resulting to more drastic treatments. Do realize it’s not a miracle cure and requires a regular treatment schedule. You must also take responsibility for stretching and making any needed changes in your activities.
When work for hours at a computer, good computer ergonomics and setting up your workstation correctly are important in preventing repetitive stress injury. If you work for a company with an ergonomics department, get help. Here are some tips to start:
Your body position is also important:
To relieve strain at your desk, take a break every hour or so to move and stretch. Here are a few simple desk stretches:
Some other tips to prevent and relieve strain:
Image credit: Berkeley Lab [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons