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Repetitive Strain Injury – Symptoms and Treatment Options

Work and sports-related injuries typically occur due to repetitive actions, incorrect use/overuse and manual labor. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) refers to the pain and damage to muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive motions, forceful exertions, mechanical compression, vibrations, overuse and sustained or awkward positions. Also known as repetitive motion disorder (RMD), the condition can affect almost any movable part of the human body and may be caused by different types of activities and long hours of training for sports such as tennis, golf and long distance running as well as playing musical instruments. Using a computer mouse for long hours can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can also cause RSI. Established multispecialty rehabilitation and pain management centers based in Brooklyn, NYC offers specialized RSI treatment that help people get over inflammation, pain muscle spasm and other symptoms associated with the condition.

Symptoms

RSI most frequently affects the upper body parts such as the forearms and elbows, neck and shoulders and wrists and hands. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may begin gradually and then become constant and more intense. Symptoms of RSI include –
Repetitive Strain Injury

  • Sudden and sharp pain
  • Weakness in the hands or forearms
  • Tingling, numbness and tremors (especially in the hand or arm)
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Persistent aches
  • Loss of sensation
  • Fatigue or loss of strength
  • A throbbing or pulsating sensation in the affected area
  • Clumsiness

Previous injuries or conditions like rotator cuff tear or an injury to the wrist, back, or shoulder can also predispose you to RSI.

How is RSI Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosis of this overuse injury generally begins with a detailed physical examination. An expert team comprising physical therapists, pain management doctors and orthopedic and rehab specialists will perform a wide range of tests to check for tenderness, inflammation, reflexes and strength in the affected area. These specialists will ask you questions about your work and other activities to identify any repetitive movements you perform. Diagnostic imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and electromyography (EMG) may be performed to check for tissue damage and nerve damage. Treatment for RSI involves a combination of modalities that help reduce pain, muscle spam, and inflammation, and improve blood circulation in the injured area. Treatment modalities used in multispecialty healthcare centers include –

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications – Anti-inflammatory painkillers (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), muscle relaxants, and antidepressants may help.
  • Physical therapy – Physical therapy includes therapeutic exercise programs that reduce pain, build muscle strength, improve range of motion and reduce the risk of worsening the injury. Exercise programs include – strengthening, stretching, aerobic and isometric exercises.
  • Steroid injections – Corticosteroid injections can provide short-term pain relief.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – Low electrical simulation is used that interacts with the sensory nervous system to decrease muscle stiffness and pain.
  • Splints – Wrapping the injured area or securing it with a splint help to protect and rest the damaged muscles and tendons.

You will be advised to reduce or stop activities that make the pain worse. Never engage in repetitive/forceful motions, exert additional pressure or weight on the injured tendon for one to two days. Muscle healing will be faster if no additional strain is placed on it during this time.

Repetitive strain injuries may take months or even years to develop. The main way to reduce the risk of these injuries is to stop or decrease the intensity of the activity for a while and rest the affected area. Modify your work routine in a way as to minimize pain and damage. Other prevention strategies include maintaining good posture while at work, taking regular breaks during work, doing the recommended stretching and strengthening exercises, and using proper techniques for typing, writing, lifting, and related tasks.

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