Understanding Repetitive Strain Injuries
We’ve all felt it – that tight, aching, pulsing pain or an annoying tingling and weakness. Whether it’s in your wrist, neck or lower back, you’re reading this because you want to find out what it is and (most importantly) how to make it go away.
These symptoms mean you’re likely suffering from some type of repetitive strain injury and the first thing you need to do is examine your daily routine to find the source of the problem.
Our bodies are designed to be in motion for the majority of the day, so sitting is a common and brutal culprit. It could also be the angle your neck is at as you stare at your computer screen, or even the way your wrist is positioned when you hold your cell phone.
Every single day, our muscles face physical stress (poor posture, strenuous or improperly performed exercise), chemical stress (nutrient deficiency, environmental toxins, drug interactions), and psychological stress (emotional stress, depression, anxiety). Repetitive Strain Injuries occur slowly over time and considering the number of stressors our muscles face daily, it is easy to see how these can all add up and cause serious damage.
The stress from one day leads to tension in the muscles of your body and every day after that you just keep adding more on top of the pile, and before you know it you have years of compounded muscle damage. Eventually your muscles become so tight and tense that they cut off blood flow to the area and the cells begin to die.
Then in one small moment, you make one ‘wrong’ move and you’re in horrendous pain. We know pain exists to give you conscious awareness that something is wrong, however people tend to blame what they were doing in that moment (brushing their teeth, combing their hair, picking up a suitcase), as the cause of their pain but it isn’t.
The actual cause of the pain is the slow accumulation of micro-trauma in the muscles that can take months or years to build to this breaking point. If you’re here, it’s time to seek out professional health care to lengthen the tight muscles and free up blood flow again. Active Release Technique (ART) is one of the only soft tissue treatments that actually accomplishes this effectively.
Once your muscles and soft tissues have returned to normal, you need to make sure you stop the repetitive action that caused the problem in the first place, or it will come back and you will be back to square one. Also remember that if you’re not stretching daily, you are getting tighter daily, so it is important to add a stretching program into your daily activities.
Some things you can do to help unwind repetitive strain injuries is getting up from your chair every half hour to move around, even if you just go get a drink of water or go for a walk at lunch to get the blood flowing through your muscles. You should also stretch as often as possible because gentle, frequent stretching is better than a bunch of stretching all at once.
You might also benefit from regular intervals of professional treatment to release the tension as it builds, so that you don’t reach the pain point again. I like to give my patients an analogy about a chalkboard to help explain repetitive strain injuries. If you are writing with chalk but never erase the chalkboard, eventually you won’t be able to write anymore because the board is too covered in chalk. The same holds for muscles because if tension builds, but you are not releasing that tension regularly, it will compound until the muscle fails and you end up back in horrendous pain.
For some people, regular treatment means a monthly visit and for others it can be every month and a half or so. I treat repetitive strain injuries daily and always see people come back if they don’t keep up the preventative maintenance these injuries require. There isn’t a one-time fix but there is a fix. I can help you with that so the injury doesn’t reoccur and you can get back to enjoying your daily activities without experiencing that pain and tension.