Often attributed to long hours of desk work, repetitive strain injuries can develop from repeated meovements during any activity at work or leisure. Repetitive strain injuries, or RSIs, all too often result in pain, loss of work, and decreased enjoyment of everyday life. Therapeutic massage is an effective tool for boh prevention and recovery from repetitive strain injuries.
What is repetitive strain injury?
Repetitive strain injuries, also known as cumulative trauma or overuse injuries, most often occur in the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the hand, wrist, forearm, shoulders and neck. Common type of RSIs are tendinitis or tendinosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fascitis (inflammation of the sole of the foot), and tennis or golfer's elbow.
Repetitive strain injuries develop from frequently repeated actions. Either short and quick movements, or positions held constantly over time such as sitting hunched at a desk, can trigger the onset of RSIs. People who operate computers, stand for prolonged periods of time, or use fine motor skills such as musicians, craft workers or assembly-line workers are at risk for RSIs.
A cycle of pain and dysfunction
The body has difficulty healing from repetitive strain injuries. First, muscles tighten around the injury, which reduces circulation necessary for healing. In addition, scar tissue begins to repair tears in muscles and tendons. But scar tissue tends to be weaker and more rigid than healthy tissue, and can restrict the normal action of muscles and tendons. When repetitive movements are continued, this tissue is likely to retear, causing more pain.
Symptoms of RSI
The first symptom of an RSI is pain with specific movements. Next, pain will occur during other activities, and can last for hours. Other symptoms may include tingling, cold or numb-like sensations, hypersensitivity, and diminished coordination and dexterity.
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 from a problem in your neck.
How can massage therapy help?
Therapeutic massage can decrease pain and enhance healing in a number of ways.
Reduces painful muscle tension, and releases trigger points in the area of tension.
Improves circulation, which helps eliminate toxins, reduce swelling and promote healing.
Increases pliability of scar tissue in tendons and other soft tissues, making movement easier and retearing less likely.
Helps stimulate healthy regeneration of damaged tendons and other soft tissues.
Improves range of motion as tight muscles relax and shortened tissues are gently stretched and lengthened.
Improves posture and joint alignment, reducing stress to the affected area and decreasing the possibility of reinjury.