When it comes to injuries, most people usually think of acute injuries that happen suddenly or abruptly. You know these types of injuries. Broken bones, nasty sprains, and cuts and bruises that come from collisions or some other trauma-inducing event. However, these aren’t the only injuries that you should be cautious of. There’s another type that you should keep an eye on…the one that likes to work behind-the-scenes, slowly building up until it’s ready to erupt: Repetitive Strain Injuries.
A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a general term for any injury caused by overusing or overstressing a muscle, nerve, tendon, or soft tissue. As its name implies, this type of injury results from repeatedly straining or stressing a certain part of your body to the point of injury. Symptoms usually start out small – a minor ache here, some muscle weakness there, or even a faint feeling of numbness. At first glance, you may not even be able to tell that there’s something wrong. But underneath that minor ache or soreness, an RSI may be brewing. If left untreated and unmanaged, these early symptoms could eventually build up into a full-blown RSI.
There are many types of repetitive strain injuries, depending on which body part is being overused. While they are often found on the upper limbs, they can potentially occur at any part of the body. Some of the common RSI’s include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), Golf Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis), and Bursitis. Whatever form of RSI it is, it would be best to have it treated and managed right away, because RSI’s can be tremendously limiting or debilitating, not to mention very painful. In fact, severe cases of RSI have been known to take several months (even years!) to fully heal.
Interestingly, even though RSI’s normally don’t get as much publicity as other injuries (i.e. sports injuries), they’re actually among the most common injuries treated by health professionals. That’s because they can result from practically any type of activity, whether sports-related or not. In fact, many, if not majority, of RSI cases result from non-sporting activities and occur among the general public (i.e. non-athlete). These everyday activities tend to feature highly repetitive motions done consistently over a period of time. Activities such as heavy typing and computer use, manual labour and housework, heavy use of scissors or other tools, or even playing musical instruments have been known to be a frequent cause of RSI.
It’s important to remember that many of our daily activities stress our bodies in ways that we don’t really notice or take into full account. Over time, that stress can compound and build up to eventually cause an injury. And because these injuries tend to build up silently and gradually, we often take their early symptoms for granted and end up not taking the necessary precautions to prevent them from getting worse. By being more mindful of our activities and the way they stress our bodies, we can better prevent RSIs from building up in the first place. The following are some more helpful tips in preventing the build up of Repetitive Strain Injuries in our bodies:
Give yourself time to rest. Because RSIs build up over time, giving yourself enough time to rest in between sessions will help your body recover from the stress you constantly put it through. This is one of the most powerful and effective ways to prevent RSIs.
Use proper form and technique. In many cases, RSI is not just caused by repeatedly doing something, but also by repeatedly doing something with bad form and technique. Incorrect form and technique place unnecessary stress or trauma on the body – stress that could accelerate the onset of RSI.
Use the right tools and equipment. Like bad form or technique, the wrong tools can place unnecessary stress on your body and can make your movements inefficient, making you more likely to injure yourself. Using the right tools not only enhances your movements, but also puts less stress on your body.
Mix it up. As much as possible, try to mix up your activities during the day and don’t get stuck doing one activity continuously for an inordinate amount of time. Mixing up your activities will help distribute your focus and energy (and consequently, your body stress) along different parts of the body throughout the day.
Be Proactive. Don’t wait till pain or injury occurs to do something. Consider doing exercises that will strengthen the body parts that you’re constantly using. Ask your Physio or Trainer for effective exercises and techniques that will make them stronger and more efficient.
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