Often attributed to long hours of desk work, repetitive strain injuries can develop from repeated movements during any activity at work or leisure. Repetitive strain injuries, or RSIs, all to often result in pain, loss of work, and decreased enjoyment of everyday life. Therapeutic massage is an effective tool for both prevention and recovery from repetitive strain injuries.
What Is Repetitive Strain Injury? Repetitive strain injuries, also known as cumulative trauma or over use injuries, most often occur in the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the hand, wrist, forearm, shoulders, and neck. Common types of RSIs are tendinitis or tendinosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the sole of the foot), and tennis or golfer's elbow.
Repetitive strain injuries develop from frequently repeated actions. Either short and quick movements, or positions held constantly over time such as sitting hunched at a desk, can trigger the onset of RSIs. People who operate computers, stand for prolonged periods of time, use fine motor skills such as musicians, craft workers, or assembly-line workers are at risk for RSIs.
A Cycle of Pain and Dysfunction The body has difficulty healing from repetitive strain injuries. First, muscles tighten around the injury, which reduces circulation necessary for healing. In addition, scar tissue begins to repair tears in muscles and tendons. But scar tissue tends to be weaker and more rigid than healthy tissue, and can restrict the normal action of muscles and tendons. When repetitive movements are continued, this tissue is likely to re-tear, causing more pain.
Muscles weaken because they are painful to use. Other muscles attempt to pick up the workload, often becoming overused themselves. In some cases, swelling can press on nerves, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, causing more pain and dysfunction. Help is often needed to stop the cycle so healing can begin.
Symptoms Of RSI The first symptom of an RSI is pain with specific movements. Next, pain will occur during other activities, and can last for hours. Other symptoms may include tingling, cold or numb-like sensations, hypersensitivity, and diminished coordination and dexterity. You may even experience what are called "referred" symptoms in areas well away from your injury. These are usually caused by highly irritable spots at the injury site known as trigger points. For example, pain in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder may be referred from a problem in your neck.
Causes of RSI Frequent contributors to repetitive strain injuries include work station positioning, inefficient body posture or movement, fatigue, lack of muscle tone, a sudden increase in activity, and diseases such as arthritis or diabetes. Stress overload or emotional states that increase muscle tension, such as anxiety or anger, may also increase vulnerability to RSIs.
How Can Massage Therapy Help? Therapeutic massage can decrease pain and enhance healing in a number of ways.
Reduces painful muscle tension, and releases trigger points in the area of injury.
Improves circulation, which helps eliminate toxins, reduce swelling, and promote healing.
Increases pliability of scar tissue in tendons and other soft tissues, making movement easier and re-tearing less likely.
Helps stimulate healthy regeneration of damaged tendons and other soft tissues.
Improves range of motion as tight muscles relax and shortened tissues are gently stretched and lengthened.
Improves posture and joint alignment, reducing stress to the affected area and decreasing the possibility of re-injury.
Your Massage Therapist Massage for injury treatment is an advanced skill. I will draw on a wide variety of techniques to treat your particular problem. I will be happy to answer your questions about training and experience in working with injuries, as well as specific techniques used.
What Else Can You Do? I may suggest specific exercises or stretches, which along with massage, which can be the most helpful thing you can do. Warm or cold applications for sore, strained muscles, and tendons may also be recommended. I may also refer you to a physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other health professionals for further help.
You may be advised to review your work station to ensure that your equipment suits your physical needs. Experiment with ergonomic tools that can helps such as forearm, wrist and elbow supports, a telephone headset, or a new chair. See if you can perform your work differently to avoid re-injury. Try to remain relaxed while you work and to develop an awareness of when tension is building, so that you can take a break to breathe, shake out any tightness, and stretch.
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