A repetitive strain injury is a general term that is used to describe injuries to muscle, tendon and joints that are used over and over again in the commission of an act. Sometimes that act is an athletic endeavor and sometimes it’s a movement done at home or at work. For instance, tennis elbow is considered one of the most common repetitive strain injuries, which can be caused from butchering meat, painting walls or playing a racket sport.
Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries
The majority of repetitive strain injuries are in the upper extremities, such as the elbow, wrist, neck, hands or shoulders. Symptoms can include:
- Pain or tenderness with specific motion
- Cramping or stiffness
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Tingling sensation over the area or an area of the body that is more distal*
*An example would be tennis elbow, which may cause tingling down the forearm, which is more distal from the body.
Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injuries
There are more reported repetitive strain injuries in the neck and thumbs in young people who spend hours on their smart phones. You can also experience a neck injury from repeatedly cradling the phone on your shoulder without using your hands. Carpel tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are two other conditions that are linked to repetitive stress.
If you are experiencing pain from what you believe is a repetitive stress injury, it’s important to seek assistance as soon as possible for a number of different reasons. If the injury is related to work, then an occupational report has to be made. You will want to stop whatever movements and motions are causing the pain so the area can heal and your physical therapist or chiropractor will recommend strengthening exercises to get you ready to return to as normal activities as possible.
If your works consists of working on a computer all day with little rest (which could cause neck/shoulder strain and/or carpal tunnel syndrome), it’s important to practice prevention. You can minimize your risk of developing the condition by learning and practicing good positioning:
Other suggested prevention methods include:
- Use an ergonomically correct keyboard
- Learn and focus to sit up straight in your chair
- Take frequent breaks (i.e.: every 15-30 minutes, get up and walk around)
- Keep your feet flat on the floor and your elbows at 90 degress at your desk
If you practice a high risk sport (e.g.: raquet sport), then the most important suggestion you can follow is to take lessons from a professional. Often, repetitive strain injuries are due to improper technique, repeated over and over again. A professional coach should be able to teach you the proper technique to avoid injury. Another suggestion is to strengthen the muscles around the area performing the repetitive movement. Example, strengthen the muscles in your forearm and upper arm to protect your elbow from tennis elbow, or strengthen the muscles around your knee (quads, hamstring, glutes and calves) to prevent knee pain.
The first thing we recommend is for you to consult your doctor. They are in a better position to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action. Generally, they will recommend that you beging to treat the injury by removing the problem activity. Then, they will most likely suggest that you start a routine of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). Rest is fairly self-explanatory. You need to rest the affected area as much as possible until it heals. As for Ice and Compression, there are some amazing products available at Amazon that can accomplish both with little effort, such as the following multi-purpose items:
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Finally, elevating the affected injury is also important because it encourages the blood to flow away from the injured member, which in turn reduces inflammation and pain. R.I.C.E., in combination with oral anti-inflammatory medications if needed, should help with the healing process. Just make sure you don’t return to your previous level of activity without first engaging in therapeutic exercises to stretch and strengthen the area, and then return gradually. Also, consult your doctor as all times.
University of Nebraska: Computer Related Repetitive Strain
NHS Choices: Repetitive Strain