The Repetitive Strain Injury
Repetitive strain injury, also known as RSI, is a debilitating condition that happens due to overuse of hands doing repetitive tasks. It is defined as a cumulative trauma disorder. The result of this condition is damage to muscles, tendons and nerves of arms, shoulder and neck that causes severe pain, weakness, numbness and loss of motor function. You may be at risk of developing repetitive strain injury if you have poor posture, use a computer at least four hours a day, don’t exercise regularly, and have serious medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and have an unhealthy and stressful lifestyle.
Repetitive strain injury is not a specific medical condition, but rather a group of disorders. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the particular forms of RSI. There is a study that frequent computer use or repetitive movements of hands are more likely increase the risk CTS. It is a type of compression neuropathy caused by compression of the median nerve that is due to the pressure from the carpal ligament. But this is a different case to other forms of RSI.
There are many other types of repetitive strain injury and those are:
- Bursitis, which is the inflammation of bursa and it is also known as “beat” condition.
- Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused when the ulnar nerve is compressed on the elbow’s edge.
- DeQuervain’s syndrome is also known as “mother’s wrist” and “washerwoman’s sprain” and it causes tender and swollen thumb.
- Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition wherein the patients are unable to fully open their hand and the affected part is the ring and little finger.
- Dystonia or writer’s cramp is an involuntary hand tremors and muscle spasms.
- Epicondylitis are also referred to as ”Golfer’s elbow” and “Tennis Elbow” and it is a common repetitive injury affecting the elbow joint.
- Gamekeeper’s thumb is very common among skiers and gamekeepers and it causes inflammation and pain on the thumb.
- Ganglion cysts will commonly occur on the wrist and fingers.
- Raynaud’s disease is a condition wherein the blood supplies on extremities are impaired.
- Tendinitis is the over use of tendons that will cause swelling and tearing of the tendons and tissues.
- Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the synovial sheath that covers the tendons and lastly is the thoracic outlet syndrome, which is the compression of nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet that is located between the lower neck and armpit.
What you need to do if you have repetitive strain injury
If you are experiencing symptoms of any one of these repetitive strain injury, you should prepare yourself to some changes in your lifestyle especially in your work. This does not mean that you should stop what you are doing, but rather you will have to modify your workplace or planning rest periods and also making yourself comfortable so that the pain and discomforts that you are experiencing because of the injury will be diminished. Application of splint or brace will also help in avoiding further strains.
If you still experiencing the symptoms of repetitive strain injury and in fact it continues to get worse after two days of stopping work or doing the things that gave you that strain in the first place, you should seek your doctor’s help immediately. The doctors usually recommend a good physical therapist for you and prescribe medications like pain killers such as ibuprofen and aspirin. The physical therapist will be able to diagnose your real problem and formulate a treatment plan. The plan usually focuses on correcting your posture, improving the function of the affected part and not relieving your pain, although at some time it will be relieved.
Acupuncture and acupressure could also help you to relieve the pain of repetitive strain injury and stimulate good blood circulation on the affected region. The number of sessions for this depends on how severe your condition is. Another one is hot/cold water bath and this could really help in alleviating the pain, numbness, tingling sensation and any kind of discomfort.
Surgery will be the last option for repetitive strain injury. It is only done when after 6 months of therapy or doing other carpal tunnel remedies, your condition worsens. You will not be able to regain your normal hand strength or function after the surgery. You still have to deal with the after effects of surgery and undergo certain management plan to be able to be fully recovered.
There are things that you need to remember to be able to avoid another incidence of repetitive strain injury. You should rest as much as possible from all of the activity that you do that causes your injury. Also a good amount of rest can also help you heal. Yoga, Pilates and aerobic are examples of stretching and strengthening exercises that do not aggravate the injury and in fact will help with the healing process. Be knowledgeable about good posture on while you are working, in everything that you do and most especially when typing because this will help minimize the strains in your muscles, ligaments and tendons. Being patient, persistent and consistent with all of this could make your life strain and injury free and you will be able to experience and enjoy a healthy body and quality life.