Although they can occur throughout the body, repetitive strain injuries generally affect the wrists and hands, forearms and elbows, or shoulders and neck. They can affect many different structures including the muscles, nerves, and tendons. You may receive a specific diagnosis such as bursitis, tendonitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
As the name suggests, repetitive strain injuries are caused by frequent repetition of the same movements. Sitting at a computer all day can raise your risk, especially if your workstation is not ergonomic. Some sports are also known for their risk of repetitive strain injuries, including tennis and golf. Here is what you should know.
Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury
The first symptom of a repetitive strain injury is often pain. At first, it may occur only when doing the activity, but over time, it may begin to stay with you throughout the day.
You may also notice some or all of these common symptoms:
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
When to Seek Help
If you start to feel stiff or uncomfortable after a repetitive activity, stop and apply ice or heat to the area. Do some gentle stretching to restore flexibility, and then think of ways to modify the activity before returning to it.
If loss of mobility or pain start to limit your activities, seek help right away. Repetitive strain injuries respond best to treatment when they are identified early.
Should I See the Doctor?
Although it is never a bad idea to see a doctor for any medical concern, physical therapists are uniquely suited to treating repetitive strain injuries. We can assess your current functionality and pain level, and design an individualized treatment plan to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles without further damaging your nerves or tendons.
Repetitive Strain Injury Treatment
The first, or acute, phase of physical therapy focuses on alleviating pain and gently loosening the affected area. We may use a combination of treatments such as ice, elevation, splinting, and gentle movement, and will give you instructions for home care between treatments. We will also provide suggestions on ways to modify your activities while you heal. Over the counter pain relievers can be used as needed.
When the acute phase is over and you are feeling better, we will start working towards full healing and reinjury prevention. You will perform several exercises both in our office and at home to restore strength and functionality. We will closely monitor your progress and refine your treatment plan as you heal.
Preventing Repetitive Strain Injuries
Although it is impossible to fully prevent all cases of repetitive strain injuries, you can significantly lower your risks by paying attention to your body positioning and ergonomics. With your doctor’s approval, start an overall fitness routine that focuses on both strength and flexibility. Be sure to take frequent breaks when performing repetitive tasks.
If your repetitive strain injury happened at work, talk to your employer. They are bound by federal and state laws to minimize the risks of these injuries, and they may be required to provide certain accommodations while you heal.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.