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 a repetitive strain injury that can be caused from butchering meat, painting walls or playing a raquet sport.
The majority of repetitive strain injuries are in the upper extremeties, such as the elbow, wrist, neck, hands or shoulders. Symptoms can include pain or tenderness with specific motion, cramping, stiffness, sensitivity to cold or heat or a tingling sensation over the area or an area of the body that is more distal – further from the center of the body than the injury. For instance, tennis elbow may cause tingling down the forearm, which is more distal from the body.
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 tendonitis 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 what ever 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 you practice a high risk sport – such as a raquet sport – or work in a high risk environment, such as on the computer all day with little rest, it’s important to practice prevention. You can minimize your risk of developing the condition by learning and practicing good positioning of your upper extremities. Use an ergonomically correct keyboard if you spend hours each day typing. Learn to sit up straight in your chair. Take frequent breaks. Every 15 minutes get up and move around, stretch and get the blood moving.
As your heart rate increases and moves the blood around, it reduces the inflammatory response to an area. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your elbows at 90 degress at your desk. Take lessons from a tennis coach and strengthen the muscles in your forearm and upper arm to protect your elbow.
Repetitive stress injuries are treated by removing the problem activity and starting Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – or R.I.C.E. In combination with oral anti-inflammatory medications if needed, your body will begin to heal. Do not return to your previous level of activity without first engaging in therapeutic exercises to stretch and strengthen the area, and then return gradually.
University of Nebraska: Computer RElated Repetitive Strain Injury
NHS Choices: Repetitive Strain Injury
KidsHealth: Computer-Related Repetitive Stress Injuries
Cleveland Clinic: Repetitive Stress Injury
Public and Commercial Services Union: Guide to REpetitive Strain Injuyr