Common Repetitive Strain Injury: Causes, Prevention and Management

Common Repetitive Strain Injury: Cause, Prevention, Management

Picture this. A dentist sitting in their chair with a restricted field of vision, bent awkwardly in a sitting position for long periods, scaling drilling and filling teeth and a creative writer toiling away at their desk, typing, editing and shooting off drafts all day. What’s common between the two? Pain in different parts of their body thanks to common Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a term that is used for several musculoskeletal disorders that are caused by repeated tasks, forceful exertions, or sustained positions. They are caused as a result of overuse and poor posture and affect every age group, occupation, and gender. An RSI can affect any part of the body that has been overused. In most cases, it develops in the arm, wrist, hands, shoulders, and back. In recent years, computer operators, musicians, assembly line workers, nurses, and surgeons are some of the most common professions that have developed RSIs.

Some of the most common repetitive stress injuries are:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: When the median nerve of the arm gets stretched and gets a numb or tingling sensation in the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. It is often associated with excessive typing and texting.
  • Trigger Finger Syndrome: When the tendons of fingers thicken and it becomes difficult to straighten the fingers after bending, it is called a trigger finger. The ring finger and the thumb are the most commonly affected areas in the trigger finger syndrome.
  • Texting Thumb Syndrome: Also known as “mommy’s thumb” refers to a swelling of the tendons around the base of the thumb. Anatomically, these tendons are covered by a slippery layer of tissue that can become irritated with repetitive strain (such as lifting a baby), causing friction and pain with thumb and wrist movements like gaming or continuous use of a mobile phone.
  • Tennis Elbow Syndrome: Tennis elbow is a strain injury of the muscle and tissues in the area of the elbow joint known as epicondylitis. Some common causes of tennis elbow include a repeated strain of the forearm (hammering, laying bricks); bending of the wrist against a resisting force (twisting a screwdriver or carrying a heavy load with arms extended); lifting objects with the hand held downward and the forefinger in a grasping position.

But how do you know if you have a Repetitive Strain Injury? Repetitive strain injuries take time to damage your body, but if untreated can cause serious pain and chronic conditions. Pain and other minor symptoms are often the first signs of tiny irritation that can lead to more serious repetitive strain injuries later on. The symptoms of RSIs differ from region to region and they tend to develop gradually. But some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling, pins-and-needles
  • Cramps
  • Swelling

Prevention of an injury is better than its cure. Some of the ways you can prevent RSIs are:

  • Ergonomics: Arrange your desktop, chair, and table for your height and body size. Position your arms, forearms, and elbows so they are nearly straight and not tilted as you type.
  • Frequent breaks: Taking frequent breaks between tasks is a good strategy to give rest to the muscles.
  • Good posture: A good posture helps prevent from head to toe. Practice good posture not just for the back but also for the wrist and elbows. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably at your desk and not hunching or leaning.
  • Stretching: Performing desk stretches will help reduce stiff muscles, soreness, and pain that you may feel in your muscles.

Most people can manage their symptoms of repetitive strain injury. Some of the most effective ways of pain management are:

  • Rest: Avoid the activity that caused the injury. Reducing the pressure off the injured area gives time to heal.
  • Massage: Massage is extremely successful in reducing pain and increasing circulation.
  • Hot and cold therapy: Manage RSIs by applying a cold compress or heat therapy for 15-30 minutes at a time, a few times a day. Cold compression helps in lowering inflammation while heat therapy helps in relieving cramps.
  • Physiotherapy: If your symptoms don’t improve and you have chronic pain for your RSI, physiotherapy would be a wise choice. A physiotherapist will also teach you specific exercises, for your RSI, that will help strengthen your muscles.
  • Topical gels and creams: You can reduce your pain and inflammation by using topical pain relief products for localised and quick relief.

Two such topical products to manage mild to moderate pain are Zandu Fast Relief Gel and Spray. They are made of active natural ingredients that helps in getting instant muscle relaxation. The gel gives 1.5 times powerful results in just 2 minutes and the turbo action formula is designed to give quick relief from muscle stiffness.  Zandu Fast Relief Gel and Spray are the perfect solution for people into sports and fitness, where pain due to overworking of muscles is common. However, if your symptoms persist, it is essential to consult your physician at the earliest.