With the amount of time we spend with our wrists and hands on our smartphones, computers, pads, desks, and games it is no surprise that Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) rates are steadily increasing.
RSI is a condition in which pain and related symptoms arise in areas of the body that do repetitive tasks, as hands often do. At Canberra Spine Centre we have noticed an increase in patients with RSI and have developed a whole-body approach to treating it.
What is RSI?
The term repetitive strain injury is a catchall term used to name a variety of painful conditions of soft tissue, muscles and tendons.
The most common RSI is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), but there are many other kinds of RSI including tendonitis and stenosing tenosynovitis.
RSI issues need to be addressed as soon as they are noticed to prevent further pain and damage.
RSI is generally caused by using specific parts of the body in repetitive ways. For wrists and hands this could mean using a track-pad, typing, using a computer mouse, or excessive use of a smartphone (eg. Thumb strain from texting).
Recent research also point to workplace factors, primarily stress, as contributors to RSI.
Some researchers theorize that stress both increases muscular tension and affects how the body processes feelings of pain.
The stress response also alters the inflammatory response of the body, and this could be a contributory factor.
Unlike normal strains following specific injuries, RSI symptoms tend to persist for a long time after onset, partially because the symptoms are related to activities that cannot be halted, such as work.
Because our hands are used so often in our work and play, they are one of the primary sites on the body that suffer from RSI.
Unfortunately, there is no specific test that doctors can perform to diagnose RSI. Pain in affected areas, such as the hand, are common and can result from many causes.
Symptoms of RSI in your Hand
Symptoms can include (but are not limited to):
- Restricted movement
- Dull ache
Symptoms tend to have a gradual onset, initially only occurring while you are doing the repetitive task.
With continued aggravation the symptoms can become present at all times and become even worse when performing the repetitive task.
Who Gets RSI?
Almost anyone can get RSI of the wrist and hands as it is has a wide variety of causes including repetitive work or play, poor posture, regular or intense force, a bad work environment, or performing tasks for long periods of time without taking a break.
RSI has a long history, first having been described in the 1700s by an Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini who described some 20 different types of RSI.
The exact reason that repetitive actions cause RSI is not agreed upon as it often does not have any overt symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, or any other obvious muscle or tendon problems.
It is also not clear why some people develop RSI and other people who do the exact same repetitive tasks do not.
And yet, it is clear that RSI does develop and experts estimate that the incidence of RSI increased nearly 25% from 2000 to 2011. Approximately one-fifth of all adults have suffered from RSI.
Experts agree that RSI has the potential to become a permanent or crippling disorder, so it should be addressed as soon as it is noticed.
Even better, if someone experiences any of the factors that can cause RSI they should reduce the possibility of getting it with a holistic program of exercise, posture and movement advice, and overall good body health such as is recommended at Canberra Spine Centre.
What Can You Do to Prevent RSI?
One of the best things you can do for yourself either in the workplace or at home is to change your posture frequently.
Tissues of the body that become damaged in RSI – mainly muscles and their tendons – become damaged through sustained loads.
These loads cause damage in two ways – via a reduced blood supply, and due to the nature of force applied over long periods. When you change your posture and positions regularly, you are taking care of both of these factors.
Moving from sitting to standing, sitting more forward and then leaning backward, moving your mouse from side to side or more forward or closer to you are examples of what you can do.
Exercise through the day that moves you differently is also helpful. If you sit all day, get up and walk. If you are standing all day, go for a swim or do some yoga.
When you alter the loads and posture on the spine, pelvis and shoulders, this will help further down the chain – into the wrists and hands.
Stretching can be helpful to keep muscles, tendons and joints moving in the right way.
Stretching shoulders, elbows, fingers, hands and wrists back and forth can help to maintain proper motion and undo some of the accumulated stress of sustained postures.
Can Chiropractic Help?
The Canberra Spine Centre offers a comprehensive approach to treatment and prevention for patients with repetitive strain injuries of the wrist and hands.
We know that these injuries are both painful and inconvenient and utilize a range of treatment options to assist people back to good function as soon as possible.
When managing an extremity (an area away from the spine, such as the wrist and hand) condition, neither just working on the spine nor just on the extremity itself will lead to full resolution of the problem.
At Canberra Spine Centre, we find that by taking a holistic approach, and looking at both ends of the problem, we can provide a more effective treatment.
Firstly, we look to restore proper motion to the spine and nervous system – not only the nerves controlling the wrist and hand, but also those of the rest of the body.
We want your whole body working well, not just your wrist and hand – that way you have you best chance of healing.
Proper nerve supply to the wrist and hand will allow the proper motor control and blood supply to the area to prevent injury and allow for better healing.
Local treatment of the wrist and hand may involve joint manipulation to restore proper motion, soft tissue techniques to restore muscle function, as well as appropriate rehabilitation exercises to speed recovery.
Importantly, we also recommend lifestyle changes that support the healing process. These changes may be mechanical, such as maintaining a better posture or working in ways that do not stress joints.
They may include lifestyle recommendations intended to add breaks to your day or release your stress.
Our aim is to combine targeted chiropractic treatment with a variety of other treatments and techniques to allow healing to occur in the wrists and hands.
Prevention of RSI and any soft-tissue damage is a lot easier than treating it.
Here at Canberra Spine Centre we take a whole-body approach based on good nutrition, healthy physical habits, and chiropractic adjustments to achieve good function and health.
If you feel pain, numbness, or aching in any area of your hands and wrists, you please call Canberra Spine Centre on (02) 6257 9400.
The earlier you begin the road to recovery, the sooner you will return to good function and health.