Over And Over Again, A Bigger And Bigger Ouch


A repetitive strain injury or repetitive stress injury is commonly known, yet widely misunderstood physiological condition characterized by sudden, diffuse, sharp pain that worsens with activity and weakness in the pain sight.  Most affected individuals have some sort of inflammation surrounding the painful joint, bone, or tendon.  The pain and inflammation can have a negative effect on movement, sometimes rendering the affected area immobile for an extended period of time.

The name of a repetitive strain injury (RSI) suggests within itself the root cause. Activities like cutting vegetables, typing, playing video games, knitting, factory work, or anything else that requires constant, awkward movements can cause an RSI. These strained movements cause over-activation in nerves and tendons, creating the diffuse sharp pains sufferers feel. Too much impact on a joint or bone can also cause an RSI. Shin splints or a runner’s heel can be categorized as a repetitive strain injury. Athletes often have RSIs.

Unlike carpel tunnel, there is no specific physiological basis for repetitive strain injuries.  Doctors cannot point to a particular nerve, tendon, or bone and cite it as the etiology for the pain felt.  In carpel tunnel, there is a specific cause and corrective surgery. Due to this fact some medical professional site a repetitive strain injury as something psychological rather than physiological.  They suggest that stress, anxiety, and other mental factors can lead to physical pain.  Treatment from this point of view takes the psychological aspects into account as well as the physiological, some suggest that the pain will continue regardless of physical treatment.

Continuing the movement that caused the initial pain will make a repetitive strain injury flare up considerably. Pain sensation intensity worsens both in time and the size of the area effected. This simple inflammation can spread and cause damage to surrounding tissues and structures over time. Treating a repetitive strain injury is not difficult when it is done early, if the affected individual pushes treatment off too long permanent damage could happen.  Long term inflammation can become a serious condition.

Resting the affected area will almost always greatly reduce, if not completely relieve, any pain the sufferer may experience.  The amount of rest needed is generally correlated with the intensity of the injury and how long it took for the injury to manifest itself in the individual.  Specific stretches and light strengthening exercises may reduce pain.  Numerous companies that are employee minded have starting stretching routines that are worked into daily routines. Ensuring employees are safe and healthy increases productivity and individual output.

Using protective or corrective gear, like back braces when continuously lifting or wrist wraps when knitting or typing, helps to avoid initial injury or the reoccurrence of a past injury.  Foot rests can be used to keep the knees, hips, and ankles in line while sitting performing office work.  Chairs that are adjusted to the correct lumbar height can reduce back strain and the associated pain.  Ensuring proper posture and working with ergonomics in mind can help safe guard the body from a repetitive strain injury.

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