Repetitive strain injury has been known for centuries. Any type of repetitive use of motion on a particular muscle can cause this condition. Other names that RSI is known by are repetitive motion injuries, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), overuse syndrome, occupational overuse syndrome, and regional musculoskeletal disorder.
Italian physician, Bernardino Ramazzini, was first noted to research and document the findings of repetitive strain injury. The year was 1700 and he used industrial workers in Italy as part of his study. Over 20 categories of RSI were found to exist. The particular posture of the limbs or unnatural movements of the body were responsible for the overuse due to their jobs. Regular sitting, standing, bending over, or carrying heavy objects presented the biggest problems. While the workplace has evolved into sedentary jobs that affect the wrists, shoulders, and fingers, this condition still exists only in different parts of the body.
Is RSI a Disability?
In November of 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) presented an ergonomics standard before Congress to address the occupational threats to American workers. Over 1.8 million US workers reported suffering from musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back injuries. OSHA wanted to place requirements on employers to create programs to inform workers about musculoskeletal disorders and their symptoms. Congress turned the measure down due to the cost that would be placed on each business. Even though RSI can be considered a disability, it is not considered the fault of the employer.
Medical Treatments for RSI Relief
The medications on the market today are designed to bring temporary relief to sore muscles. They are usually ineffective and do not provide an answer to the problem. You can also hot and cold packs for calming down the inflammation. Stints are also used to keep a joint immobile. Steroid injections can also work for a period of time. If worse comes to worst, surgery may be suggested.
How Chiropractic Services Aid with RSI Relief
RSI can be a costly condition. Finding the right treatment for continuing day-to-day activities can involve surgery or changing your career or lifestyle. Some of the most common repetitive strain injuries include:
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
3 Methods Used by Chiropractors in Treating RSI
There are different techniques used in chiropractor offices to relieve the inflammation and pain caused by a repetitive strain injury. Depending on the severity of the condition and the location, one of these may work better for you.
1. Manual Therapy
The chiropractor will physically perform techniques and modalities to release the strain and stress that are binding your joints and muscles. This has been found to increase the range of motion within the joints. According to many physical therapists, manual techniques are the most effective for releasing tight muscles and other soft tissues.
2. Soft Tissue Therapy
Soft tissue therapy involves more than just a massage. 95% of the time, the first treatment brings immediate relief. Soft tissue therapy reduces tensile and compressive stress on your body and can dramatically speed up the healing process. Repetitive strain injuries can often cause the muscles surrounding the joints to become sore or stiff. This type of therapy focuses on relaxing the muscles and releasing any tightness or stiffness. This will ease any discomfort that can occur with occupational stress or routine movements.
3. Joint Mobilization and Manipulation Techniques
Limited joint movement can be helped by using joint mobilization and manipulation techniques. If joints in a specific area begin to lock or you have limited use due to pain, this type of therapy could work for you. Only after a complete examination will your chiropractor be able to make this determination.
Your chiropractor may also provide you a list of exercises that can be performed at home. Self-care motions often subside the pain and provide more flexibility to muscles and joints. Always correspond with your chiropractor to give input on how the exercises are working.
Should You Worry about RSI?
Ignoring the pain and swelling of repetitive strain injury can only worsen the situation. Here is a list of conditions found to be linked directly to continued RSI:
- Bursitis – The knee, elbow, or shoulder joint becomes inflamed and swollen.
- Tendonitis – The tendon becomes inflamed.
- Tendinosis: Cellular degeneration of collagen results within the tendons, due to overuse. This is different from tendinitis.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – Nerve in the front of the wrist becomes compressed and causes pain.
- Raynaud’s disease – Work that involves vibration can constrict blood vessels.
- Cubital tunnel syndrome – The nerve in the “funny bone” area is placed under prolonger pressure and can stretch the nerve.
- De Quervain syndrome – The tendons on the thumb side of the wrist will become tender due to overuse of the wrist.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome – Heavy lifting with the upper extremities can cause the blood vessels or nerves to become trapped between the collar bone and the first rib.
- Intersection syndrome – Those in sports like horseback riders, skiers, or racket ballplayers will experience inflammation of muscles in the forearm from repeated flexing of the wrist.
- Dupuytren’s contracture – When the tissue in the palm of the hand becomes thick from using vibrating tools repeatedly. This can lead to permanently bent fingers.
- Rotator cuff syndrome – Prolonged overhead activity can damage the tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place.
- Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) – This affects the inside of the lower arm, near the elbow. Certain sports that cause the arm to twist can lead to this condition.
- Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)– The outer part of the elbow becomes inflamed from repeated use.
- Stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger)– When a finger becomes stuck in a bent position and cracks when straightened. This is also known as “texting tendonitis” and is becoming common in today’s world.
- Radial tunnel syndrome – The top of the forearm develops a dull ache by pulling and pushing too much, irritating the nerve.
- Writer’s cramp – The hands or arms develop uncontrollable muscle cramps from overuse.
Every one of these conditions is due to overexertion of muscles regularly. A chiropractor can provide education on the cause and provide different types of therapy to relieve the pressure on affected areas.
Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury in Today’s World
Technology has changed the areas where most people have conditions from RSI. The hands, fingers, elbows, and shoulders suffer from overuse due to sitting in front of a computer or texting on a phone. Outside of giving up these duties, here are some suggestions for keeping your muscles and joints as healthy as possible:
Straighten your desk, chair, and screen so they are aligned in an ergonomic fashion.
Avoid slouching and keep the ears and back in a straight line with the pelvis.
Avoid bending your wrists, and keep the arms, wrists, and fingers aligned when typing.
Use touch typing to avoid hitting the keys too hard and giving each finger the same amount of pressure.
Find your keyboard’s shortcuts and learn how to use them. This will limit the typing and mouse movements.
Don’t take your frustrations out on the mouse. You may find yourself gripping it too tightly which increases the muscle tension in your hand.
Of course, common sense issues should also be practiced while trying to calm down aching muscles and joints. Eat a well-balanced diet. Take as many breaks as you need when your muscles are strained. If you smoke, stop. Smoking can restrict the blood flow and feed weakness into muscles.
If you feel the onset of cramps, experience popping in the hands and wrists, or getting sore joints, call your chiropractor for an evaluation. It is easier to take care of tight muscles when they first begin than to wait until the pain has settled in.