Repetitive Strain Injury - what is it and how do we treat it?
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a term used to describe damage sustained by tissues, such as tendons, ligaments and nerves, from repetitive demand over time. The damage results in inflammation and tissue changes which can lead to a wide range of symptoms such as aching, throbbing, pins and needles, numbness and/or weakness in and around the affected area.
RSI often results from occupational (mouse and computer work, hammering) or recreational activities (throwing balls, running, cycling) and can be compounded by a number of factors such as general health status, nutrition, satisfaction in the work place and gender (sorry ladies).
Some common injuries include Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow (medial and lateral epicondylitis respectively), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome.
Damage to soft tissues can be caused by repetitive and awkward movements and often have underlying postural problems in addition to ergonomic factors in the work environment. Forces involving vibration (jack-hammer), compression or traction (carrying a heavy bag in your hand) to a specific area can also contribute to the development of RSI. Health conditions such as diabetes and other inflammatory diseases may also predispose people to developing this condition.
Osteopathy may assist you in recovering from RSI. Treatment may involve massage, articulation and mobilisation of joints and tissues to help with circulation, lymphatic drainage and reduction in pain. Your osteopath will assess all the biomechanics that will influence the area that you are having trouble with so as to identify the cause of the RSI and treat effectively. As well as manual treatment, your osteopath may also apply bracing or taping to the area and may suggest ice packs or hydrotherapy at home to help you recover quickly.
Your GP may suggest some over the counter anti-inflammatories for short term pain relief. It’s not ideal to use these medications in the long term so getting treatment in one form or another is very important.
What can I do at home or work to help prevent?
We all hate homework but sometimes we have to do it! Often patients will need to make a change to their work environment such as how their computer is set up. Alternatively, they may need to alter their golf swing (improve it most likely) or change the way they run. Generally, just like any injury, you will need to give the tissues time to heal and that may involve rest from an activity for a short while. These steps, along with stretches and strengthening that your osteopath may prescribe will help you return to normal activity quickly.
Written by our guest Osteopath Dr. Sonia Wainberg