Often attributed to long hours of desk work, repetitive strain injuries can develop from repeated movements during any activity at work or leisure. RSI's often result in pain, loss of work and decreased enjoyment of everyday life. Therapeutic massage is an effective tool for both prevention and recovery from repetitive strain injuries.
How do RSIs happen?
RSIs develop from repeated strain to soft tissues. Short and quick movements or positions held for long periods such as sitting hunched at a desk can begin the development of a repetitive strain injury.
Cumulative trauma or overuse injuries most often occur in the soft tissues of the hand, wrist, forearm, shoulders and neck. Common types of RSIs are tendinitis or tendinosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow.
Symptoms of RSIs
The first symptom is pain with specific movements. Next, pain will occur during other activities and can last for hours.
You may even experience what are called "referred" symptoms in areas well away from your injury. These are usually caused by highly irritable spots at the injury site known as trigger points. For example, pain in the wrist, elbow or shoulder may be referred pain from a problem in your neck.
The danger of not treating RSIs
Muscles can tighten around (splint) an injury causing pain and dysfunction. Muscle spasms reduce blood circulation necessary for healing. In addition, scar tissue begins to repair tears. Scar tissue is more rigid than healthy tissue and can restrict the function of muscles and tendons if adhesions are formed. When repetitive motions are continued, this tissue is likely to re-tear, causing more pain.
Muscles weaken because they are painful to use. Other muscles are recruited to pick up the workload, often becoming overused themselves. In some cases, inflammation can develop to protect the injury. Swelling that presses on nerves can cause pain.
Reduction or stoppage of repetitive motions is certainly helpful but sometimes the damage is done. Professional help may be needed to stop the cycle so healing can begin. Therapeutic massage is an excellent place to start but additional therapies or modifications may be necessary.
How can massage therapy help?
- MASSAGE relaxes muscle tension and releases painful trigger points that may have developed because of the injury.
- Increases pliability of scar tissue in muscles, tendons and fascia making movement easier and re-injury less likely.
- Helps stimulate healthy regeneration of damaged tendons and other soft tissues by stimulating circulation in the area. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients that promote healing. Exiting blood takes away toxic wastes.
- Improves range of motion as tight muscles relax and shortened tissues are gently stretched and lengthened.
- Improves posture and joint alignment by relaxing muscles that could be adversely splinting joints or compensating in other ways.
- Reduces multiple forms of stress to the affected area that may cause further damage, pain and dysfunction.
- Administration of ice or topical analgesics may reduce pain and swelling.
- Pain reduction may help to reduce mental stress and sleep loss which typically perpetuate pain cycles.
Emily Hagen CNMT, BCTMB
Board Certified Neuromuscular Therapist
Right as Rain Massage, LLC