A repetitive strain injury is one that is caused by repetitive motions and continuous use. In turn, damage occurs to the tendons, the muscles, and/or the nerves. In some instances, medical professionals refer to these types of injuries as “repetitive stress injuries.” While relatively common, these injuries are uncomfortable for those that experience them. Continue reading to learn more and to obtain information regarding recovery.

Hand Pain from Repetitive Strain Injury

What Parts of the Body are Impacted by Repetitive Strain Injuries?

Repetitive strain injuries may impact any part of the body; however, the following outlines the most commonly impacted areas:

  • Fingers
  • Thumbs
  • Wrists
  • The Elbows
  • The Arms
  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Ankles

This type of injury develops when the same motions or the same activities are repeated to the point where discomfort and pain occur. Any activity or motion may result in this type of injury. It does not matter if it is competitive dancing, playing a sport – such as tennis – or, simply typing on a keyboard to a computer.

Who Commonly Experiences Repetitive Strain Injuries?

It is possible for absolutely anyone to experience a repetitive strain injury; however, they are the most common among the following types of people:

  • Those that have jobs that are physically demanding and require constant or repetitive actions
  • Individuals that play musical instruments
  • People that are required to sit at a desk and write, use machinery, and/or a computer often throughout the day
  • Athletes

Can Repetitive Stress Injuries Lead to Other Problems?

While considered a common issue, repetitive strain injuries may lead to other complications. These include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Back Strains
  • Back Sprains
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture
  • Ganglion Cysts
  • Herniated Discs
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
  • Shin Splints
  • Stress Fractures
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Trigger Thumb
  • Trigger Finger

What are the Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries?

There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with repetitive strain injuries. Many are dependent on the location where the injury occurs and others stem from the severity of the injury. The following outlines the most commonly experienced by those that suffer from repetitive strain injuries:

  1. Numbness
  2. Pain
  3. Sensitivity to Either Heat or Cold
  4. Stiffness
  5. Swelling
  6. Tingling
  7. Weakness

What are the Causes of Repetitive Strain Injuries?

Any type of activity or motion that is repeated may cause an injury that stems from repetition. The body experiences constant stress and a hefty strain, over a period of time. Examples are outlined below on the underlying causes of these types of injuries:

  • Working in extreme temperatures
  • Working with tools or equipment that vibrates
  • Working out without going through a warm-up and a cool-down
  • Poor posture
  • Engaging in sporting activities or other activities that involve the same motions

Getting Diagnosed

If you feel as if you have a repetitive strain injury, you must meet with your medical doctor or healthcare provider. A physical examination will be performed. The professional will inquire about your symptoms, your daily activities, and your health history. If the provider feels as if a repetitive strain injury has occurred, the following may be ordered:

  • A Computed Tomography Scan (CT)
  • A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI)
  • An Ultrasound
  • X-Rays
Compression Glove for hand injury

How is a Repetitive Strain Injury Treated?

The treatment for a repetitive strain injury depends upon the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms experienced. First, a healthcare provider will recommend that you either make modifications to or engage in a reduction of the activity that is believed to have caused the issue.

Next, the provider will instruct you to follow the standard known as “R.I.C.E”. The following outlines this:

  • Rest – This is the part of the treatment where you should avoid the activity or motion that resulted in the onset of the injury. No injured part of the body should be overused when it is in the process of healing.
  • Ice – A cold compress should be directly applied to the injured part of the body a few times during each day for a period of up to a total of 15 minutes.
  • Compression – You may reduce inflammation around the site of the injury by wrapping it in an elastic bandage.
  • Elevation – Finally, the injured part of the body should be elevated. You will want to ensure that it is situated above the location of the heart. You may elevate as often as you need or want to during the recovery period.

In addition to the R.I.C.E method, you may take over-the-counter medication. You should focus on taking those that eliminate pain – such as acetaminophen – and those that alleviate inflammation – such as ibuprofen. You should not take these medications for a period that extends 10 days.

Once you initiate the healing process, a healthcare provider may elect to refer you to a physical therapist. If you want to, you may initiate the process of going to a physical therapist. Most states no longer require you to have a referral for physical therapy.

These professionals will help you through the recovery period by providing you with exercises and strategies for improving your level of flexibility, correcting your posture, and optimizing your strength. A customized plan will be tailored by the physical therapist to address your needs, specifically.

If the repetitive strain injury is considered to be severe and has caused an immense amount of damage, you may be referred to a surgeon. The surgeon will go through the process of repairing the damage that has been done. The good news is, most repetitive strain injuries do not require surgery.

Should I Go to the ER for a Repetitive Strain Injury?

If you have an injury that is caused by repetitive strain, there are some instances in which you will need to go to the emergency room. If you have any of the following, it may be time for immediate medical intervention:

  • You find that you are experiencing extreme levels of pain
  • The swelling associated with the injury appears to be getting worse
  • There is unusual discoloration or swelling near the area that is injured
  • It is difficult for you to move the injured part of your body
  • You start experiencing a fever
  • You start to feel poorly – especially if a fever is involved

How Can Repetitive Strain Injuries Be Prevented?

If you engage in activities that require repetitive motions, rest periodically so that repetitive motion injuries do not occur. You may also regularly massage the various joints and limbs of your body. Muscles may be stretched and hydration should be maintained. If you find that you experience difficulties consult with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist.

The Role of a Physical Therapist in Recovery

When you work with a physical therapist for repetitive strain injuries, the goal is to reduce inflammation and pain, improve motion, and provide a boost to strength. These injuries occur over time and are considered to be chronic. It is imperative that you engage in a rehabilitation program to ensure a full recovery. By completing such a program, you are taking the step that will aid in a quick, complete recovery.

Physical therapy provides a solution that is long-term. It allows you to optimize your overall quality of life. If you would like to get some sense of normalcy back into your life, contact us here at Back to Motion Physical Therapy today. We offer a wide range of services that will benefit you immensely. You do not have to get a referral from a medical doctor to see us. Simply contact us today and set up an appointment: 303-832-5577

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