Repetitive Strain Injuries are on the increase as we spend more and more time in front of our computers, smart phones and tablets. Recessionary times are forcing people to work harder and longer with less opportunity for varying work load. The good news is that by understanding the causes of repetitive strain injuries you can do a lot to alleviate and even prevent the problem. Chartered Physiotherapist Stephen Swanton discusses the problem and also how it can be avoided in future as well.
So what exactly are Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)?
RSI is an umbrella term that includes many different types of overuse/ over load injury and depending on the activities you perform can affect tendon, muscle and nerve structures in any region of the body.
The most commonly recognised repetitive strain injuries are at the elbow, wrist and hand and include tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and iphone hand.
There is a general relationship between the different factors involved in bringing on a repetitive strain injury as represented below.
I = risk of injury to the tissue for a particular activity
N = the number of repetitions performed
F = the force used to perform each repetition (including the force to hold the position)
A = the size of the movement
R = the rest time where the tissue is not under tension or in an awkward posture
Looking at the above relationship you can decrease your risk of RSI by:
- Reducing the number of repetitions performed
- Reducing the force required to perform each repetition
- Increasing the size of the movement
- Increasing rest periods where the body part is not held in an awkward posture
So How can I apply this to me?
Step 1 – Look at the activities you perform during the day.
Do any of them involve static postures or high repetitions? These are potentially high risk activities for a repetitive strain injury. Examples can include sitting, typing, texting and even activities important for heart health such as runningHave you suddenly increased the number of repetitions/duration performing these activities? This is a risky practice and very common either during busy times at work where people can spend 60 hours or more at their office cubicle or at the start of marathon training season!
Step 2 – Can you change or improve the activity to make it less risky?
Taking sitting at a workstation as an example
- Vary posture frequently
- Take regular breaks from the activity – get up and walk around
- Adjust your chair and workstation to minimise awkward postures
- If sitting and working with your arms in front of you support your forearms on the desk or on the arm rests of the chair don’t statically hold them in front of you
- If using a tablet try to keep it in close to you
If you’ve just taken up running or any form of cardio
Take it slowly – don’t try to increase your volume (number of repetitions) too quickly and space your training sessions so that you have adequate rest between themAssess your posture? Are you holding yourself properly? (reduce the force)Not sure if you are doing it correctly? Ask a professional
Step 3 – Put your identified changes into action
- Knowing where the problems lie doesn’t mean you can relax
- Make a plan – quantify what you are doing and monitor that you are doing it and that you keep doing it
If you are looking for treatment to help reduce the pain of repetitive strain injury book an appointment with us. Thanks to today’s author Stephen Swanton for providing us with this very informative article. Stephen works in our Baggot Street clinic in Dublin 2. If you would like to be treated by Stephen for RSI, be sure to mention his name when booking !!