By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a type of disorder that primarily affects muscles, tendons, nerves and joints. This includes conditions such as rotator cuff and achilles tendinopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck tension syndrome, bursitis, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow, and plantar fasciitis.
Symptoms of RSI may include restricted mobility, weakness, numbness, tingling, burning sensations, swelling, redness, sharp and/or aching pain. In its severest form, RSI can significantly limit physical functioning and render people incapable of carrying out even simple tasks.
RSI can affect anyone involved in activities that require rapid and/or repetitive motion of muscles and joints in work, sport, or leisure activities. It is more likely to happen if these movements are combined with awkward posture(s), excessive or prolonged force, poor technique, and using the wrong equipment or tool. Physical deconditioning can also make individuals susceptible to RSI. As a result, RSI can affect a broad variety of people including: trade workers such as electricians, painters, and carpenters; recreational athletes such as tennis players and golfers; and labourers such as cleaners and assembly line workers. Video gaming, computer use, holding one's phone between the neck and shoulder, and even hobbies like knitting and playing a musical instrument are associated with RSI.
While most cases of RSI are treatable, it can recur and may become chronic without appropriate management. Pain in one area of the body may also spread to other areas as the body tries to compensate. For example, pain in the wrist can move to the forearm, shoulder joint and neck muscles as an individual attempts to avoid pain and symptoms while continuing to perform the offending activities. Therefore, prevention is key to managing RSI. This is accomplished through identifying and then altering or eliminating the situations that contribute to the cause of RSI. This may include making changes to a work station, using the correct tools/equipment, taking breaks to relax overworked muscles and joints, and performing exercises to relieve stress and strengthen the affected parts of your body.
Chiropractors are healthcare professionals skilled in evaluating, maintaining and restoring physical function. They can provide education to help prevent RSI and offer effective therapy to help relieve symptoms that have already developed. This may include treatment options such as joint mobilizations, specialized soft tissue therapy, therapeutic laser, acupuncture, and electrotherapy. In addition, a chiropractor can advise you on modifications to your work environment as well as assist you in improving work habits and postures. Specific rehabilitative exercise prescription that includes strengthening and stretching exercises, combined with aerobic conditioning, may also be part of your treatment plan to help with recovery and prevent recurrence of RSI.
If RSI is affecting your ability to get through the day and keeping you away from your favourite activities, consider chiropractic care. A chiropractor will assess your symptoms, diagnose your condition, and recommend a treatment plan to put you on the road to recovery. For more information, visit www.nhwc.ca.
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.