When you overwork a body part, you’ll feel it. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and bones are all designed to allow movement. However, it’s important to allow them to rest.
If you are constantly doing the same types of movements due to work duties or hobbies, you could end up with a repetitive strain injury.
What is a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?
A repetitive strain injury (RSI) can occur from performing repetitive motions, such as manual labor, gardening, using vibrating tools, secretarial work, or playing video games.
There has been an increase in RSI due to technology devices. For example, in the past, people would read newspapers and magazines, but now it’s become common to get most news and entertainment through electronic devices, such as smartphones and iPads, which require repetitive scrolling.
RSI can occur in different parts of the body depending on the movement that caused it. The strain can be in the fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, neck, waist, legs, or feet.
Causes of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
Repetitive strain injury, as the name implies, is caused by performing the same motion repeatedly. The condition can be exacerbated by not having ergonomic equipment, such as a chair or desk that helps to maintain good posture, arm support for those working in a laboratory, headsets for people who are required to be on the phone for hours, and wrist rests for people who work on computers all day. Carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and De Quervain syndrome are common among office workers for this reason.
For people who work manual labor, RSI could be a result of tendonitis, bursitis, or Dupuytren’s contracture.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Symptoms
Symptoms vary since a repetitive strain injury can occur in different body parts. However, most people with repetitive strain injury will feel some of the following:
- A pulsating sensation in the injured joint
- Weakness of affected area
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Diagnosis
A doctor can diagnose RSI by asking detailed questions about your daily tasks, and how and when the pain or discomfort starts or started. Your medical provider will recommend rest time, followed by specific modifications to work duties. In addition, you may have to keep the affected body part immobilized while it heals.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Treatment
Treatment options include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, icing the injury if it’s recent, heat therapy as it starts to heal, steroid injections, or physical therapy.
Surgery is typically used as a last resort in the event of tendon or nerve damage.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Risk Factors
Risk factors include any job or task that requires repetitive movements for extended periods of time and failing to take adequate breaks between tasks.
Smoking puts you at a higher risk of RSI since it reduces blood flow throughout the body.
Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) Complications
When a person experiences symptoms of repetitive strain injury, they should seek medical attention. Failing to do so could result in any of the following:
- Chronic pain
- Absence from work
- Permanent disability
- Deformity of a joint
Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)
- Stretch. Lifestyle changes and home remedies include exercising with a proper warm-up, stretching, and rest days. Stretches prior to activity should be dynamic stretches, while stretches after activity should be static stretches.
- Rest. Always remember the importance of taking breaks. No matter how much work you have to do or how much training you want to complete before an athletic event, neither work nor exercise will get completed if you’re injured. While you’re at work, make sure to take the breaks allowed by law.
- Use ergonomic equipment. You shouldn’t feel shy about asking for proper equipment at the office. For example, if you work all day sitting at a desk, you could request items such as wrist rests, glare filters for the computer monitor, and chairs with lumbar support. If you’re a short person, ask for a footrest to be placed under your desk. If you have to spend a lot of time on your feet, request a height-adjustable workstation, a rubber mat to stand on, wear shoes that provide enough cushioning, and avoid high heels. If you have to spend a significant amount of time on the phone, request a headset. If you’re doing precision work, ask for elbow rests.
The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a reference guide about the impact of poor ergonomics in the workplace, as well as ways to prevent common strain injuries according to industry.
As for home remedies, always follow your physician’s instructions, which may include wearing a splint, alternating ice and heat therapy, and non-prescription medication.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing pain due to repetitive strain, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.