13 Aug Repetitive Stress Injury
Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is an overuse disorder, involving cumulative exposure to constrained and awkward posture, forceful and rapid repetitive movements, vibration and temperature. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics it is the leading cause of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses, and in 2002 caused an average of 23 lost workdays per injury claim and contributed to over 2 billion dollars in lost revenue.
Common diagnoses related to RSI are carpal tunnel syndrome, flexor tenosynovitis, medial and lateral epicondylitis, rotator cuff strain, cervical and thoracic pain, and thoracic outlet syndrome.
RSI is a conglomerate and cyclical form of injury that occurs to the muscle, tendon, ligament, vascular, and nervous tissues. The tissue fibers are injured due to repetitive motion. Due to constant repetition, the tissues are unable to recover their integrity. Inflammation of damaged tissues causes swelling, stiffness in the joints, and constricts neurovascular tissue, which may cause sensory and temperature changes in the extremities. Impaired neurovascular tissue increases tissue fatigue and decreased muscle function.
Posture also contributes to RSI. Slouched and rounded shoulders, extended forward head with a hand supporting your chin while staring at your computer screen probably sounds pretty familiar. This posture places stress on subacromial tissue and cervical musculature causing impaired neurovascular function, headaches and can cause an imbalance in tissue length progressing to poor control of the spino-brachial complex.
It is imperative for the treatment of RSI to address all components of the problem, especially discontinuing the habit of the repetitive motion. Correcting ergonomic habits is the most important aspect of the treatment. Correct body mechanics allow injured tissues essential time to rest, which decreases tissue irritation and inflammation, and restores normal tissue function. Conditioning supportive structures increases the stress tolerance of the body. This will increase the injury threshold and improve the resilience of the working and postural structures.
The physical therapists at OPTM will address the entire clinical issue of RSI. We assess and individualize a treatment program to treat the specific diagnosis and all contributing factors. Everyone is instructed in proper body mechanics, specific dynamic strengthening programs, and retrained to break repetitive motion habits. This approach minimizes time lost from enjoying life, and restores a more comfortable state of being.