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Repetitive Strain Injury: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Repetitive Strain Injury, abbreviated as RSI, is defined as an increasing decline in flexibility, progressive impairment in the functioning of the mobile parts of the human body, namely the muscles, tendons, joints, nerves. This common condition among men and women of all ages is also known as repetitive motion injury, overuse syndrome, cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), regional musculoskeletal disorder and repetitive motion disorder (RMD). Numerous ailments that prompt strain in the muscles and other connective tissues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, bursitis, shin splints, are all considered as typical examples of repetitive strain injuries.

Repetitive strain injury is characterised by persistent soreness, aching in the afflicted limbs, weak and frail muscles, besides thumping and tingling sensations in the damaged nerves. The trigger factors behind RSIs can range from the exertion of pressure directly on the limbs, such as lifting heavy objects, engaging in rigorous sports, to occupational constraints like working in extreme freezing conditions continuously for a long time. While in some cases, the pain, swelling in the movable body parts is only mild and temporary and gradually diminishes with simple remedies involving hot packs, cold compress and anti-inflammatory medicines, at times, RSI can be chronic, requiring long-term physical therapy and even surgery. It is hence necessary to understand the causes and symptoms of repetitive strain injury, to accurately diagnose the areas of pain in the body, provide appropriate remedial measures and ensure better functioning of muscles in the affected person.

Types Of Repetitive Strain Injury

RSIs are categorised into two kinds, as Type 1 RSI and Type 2 RSI.

Type 1 RSI:

Type 1 RSI refers to prominent distension with redness and pain in the afflicted connective tissues, mostly being contained within the muscles and tendons.

Type 2 RSI:

This form of severe strain can be induced by several different factors, with injury being inflicted upon the nerves, owing to constant overuse of mobile body parts during work-related tasks.

Causes

Repetitive strain injuries, as the name suggests, are primarily triggered in muscles, tendons, joints and nerves, from repeated usage, forceful expansion and compression, constant vibrating motions and staying in a fixed position for extended periods. Many activities, including playing tennis, long-term use of a computer keyboard and mouse for typing, designing, clutching tools while working with wood to make furniture prompt instances of RSI.

Certain roles and movements, when performed daily or on a regular basis, make an individual more prone to acquiring a repetitive strain injury. These consist of overusing a specific muscle or straining a group of muscles every day and quite often, being in jobs that involve handling highly vibrating devices, remaining in cold surroundings, carrying hefty cargoes. Apart from these mobile activities, a lack of body-stretching motions at work, inadequate ergonomics in the office space, suffering from intense fatigue and being seated in an improper posture all day long also contribute towards developing RSIs.

Also Read: Take A Break: 5 Fabulous Ways To Stretch Your Muscles At The Workplace

Symptoms

The most common portions of the system affected by RSI comprise the shoulders like in shoulder bursitis, forearms, elbows, wrists, neck, with some instances causing penetrating discomfort in the hips, knees, legs, ankles and heels.

Also Read: Shoulder Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

The distinguishing indications of repetitive strain injury consist of:

  • Concentrated pain, reddening, swelling in the affected muscles, joints and tendons
  • Limited range of motion in the hands, legs, with muscle cramps, rigidity, decreased power in muscles
  • Numb feeling in the afflicted nerves, accompanied by stinging and pounding sensations
  • Extreme frailty in the muscles, tendons and nerves, with exhaustion and lethargy
  • Heightened sensitivity to mild as well as drastic temperatures of hot and cold

Diagnosis

The doctor initially conducts a thorough physical examination of all external body parts, to look for any noticeable swelling in the muscles. A complete medical history of the patient, besides the kind of activities performed by them daily, is also recorded by the healthcare provider.

The physician tests the range of motion of the affected person by making them move their limbs and body in different directions and angles. This helps to gauge the level of pain, tenderness, inflammation, as well as the amount of strength and ease of flexing movements in the muscles, tendons, joints, nerves in a particular area of the body.

Additional investigations are also carried out, such as MRI and ultrasound scans, to determine if there is any internal tissue damage, aside from electromyography, to ascertain whether any significant injury has been caused to the nerves.

Treatment

The modes of treatment followed for RSI once the diagnosis is confirmed in the patient, depending on the area of muscles, nerves, joints, tendons affected and intensity of pain, whether it is minor, moderate or excruciating.

In subtle instances of RSI, RICE which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation is recommended by the medical expert. Furthermore, certain anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed to be taken orally or applied topically, to pacify the pain and swelling in the muscles. If the pain is unbearable and occurs through the day, then steroid injections may be administered in the spot in the body troubled by RSI.

The doctor also advises the patient to schedule physical therapy sessions, which involve gentle movement exercises to eventually regain range of motion, flexibility in muscles, besides relaxation techniques and wearing tight bandages, to shield the muscles from further damage and provide ample rest. This guarantees recovery from RSI, relief from pain, soothes swelling and restores optimal functioning and strength of muscles in the patient.

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