Pain, tingling, burning, a stiff wrist: these are the signs of repetitive strain injury. It develops when repetitive movements are carried out constantly over the years. This causes minute injuries (micro traumata) that add up to a condition over time which can significantly restrict those affected.
If diagnosed early, the chances for healing are good – but once it becomes chronic, recovery is often difficult. In the worst case scenario, a permanent inability to work may be the consequence. What are the typical symptoms of repetitive strain injury? How can the condition be prevented? And what treatment options are there? Find the answers here as well as other useful information about this chronic condition of excessive strain.
Symptoms of repetitive strain injury – early recognition is crucial
During the early stage, symptoms of repetitive strain injury are particularly noticeable after extended exertion. That’s why physicians call it repetitive strain injury (RSI). Many hours of typing or clicking the mouse at work, playing computer games, or lengthy tablet or smartphone sessions result in pain, tingling, or sensory disturbances in the hand and forearm. The problems will subside quickly if you give your hand a break – and that’s exactly what often tempts people into not seeking medical advice to find the cause.
If repetitive strain injury is ignored during its initial stage, it can deteriorate quickly. Then problems will occur sooner or persist for longer, even when you stop the triggering activity. Then, at the latest, a visit to the physician will be necessary to prevent the repetitive strain injury becoming chronic.
During later chronic stages, problems will also occur during rest or with minor strain. This renders work and often even simple hand movements at home impossible. Several weeks’ rest are then needed so the problems subside – but they will quickly return when the triggering activity is carried out again.
How to prevent repetitive strain injury
Very frequently, the cause of repetitive strain injury is a lack of ergonomics at work: poor posture, having the chair too high or too low, and a lack of wrist rests as part of the mouse pad and keyboard advance the development of repetitive strain injury. Add to that awkward movements and joint positions (forced postures) that subject the joints, muscles, and tendons to excessive strain.
It’s therefore crucial to have a look at your work place and even observe yourself. You can significantly reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury with a straight, comfortable sitting posture with relaxed shoulders and arms, ideally a neutral position of the wrists during work (not angled sideways), and an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Your chair, monitor, and work surface should also be checked for the heights and distances recommended for your height.
Diagnosed with repetitive strain injury – what treatment is beneficial?
An ergonomic rearrangement of the work place is generally a good idea. It’s best to talk to your employer who may be able to make adjustments for you. When repetitive strain injury is diagnosed, problems have generally progressed quite far. Merely adjusting one’s own work environment is often not enough. Depending on the degree, type, and duration of the problems, a physician can prescribe or start the following kinds of treatment:
- short-term (!) administration of pain medication (analgesics) and anti-inflammatory medication but not as a permanent solution
- temporary immobilization of the hand or the forearm using a support or orthosis for repetitive strain injuries
- thermo or cryotherapy
- kinotherapeutic baths for the affected hand
- learning a relaxation procedure such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
- physiotherapy and ergonomic movement training
- accompanying psychotherapy to support retraining of the pain memory
Why does exercise help with repetitive strain injury?
Even though rest and relief are important aspects of treatment, your body is made to move. And with repetitive strain injury in particular, it’s important to reduce muscle tension, stimulate circulation as well as lymphatic drainage, and reduce pain stimuli. Gentle exercises specifically for repetitive strain injury will help you with that. We have compiled a training program for your forearm. Ideally, you should make regular short breaks from work part of your daily routine, during which you can do something beneficial for your hands with targeted exercises.
How does a support help with treating repetitive strain injury?
When treating repetitive strain injury, it’s important to reduce pain stimuli and adverse strain on the damaged or irritated tissue. In cases of serious pain, wearing a wrist orthosis, such as the ManuLoc, is recommended because it ensures the necessary immobilization. If the repetitive strain injury primarily manifests as irritation, a support like the ManuTrain is a good choice. During movement in particular, the support alleviates pain thanks to the knitted fabric’s medical compression, and provides a massage effect that promotes circulation and regeneration. It can also prevent the constant activation of the pain memory.
Additionally, the support will provide you with secure stabilization. Using the two-part strap system, you can adjust the support’s degree of stabilization, depending on the severity of the pain. Thus, the support will protect your wrist from excessive strain on the injured structures and accelerate recovery. With the ManuTrain, we made sure we equipped it with breathable materials and designed it to allow free movement of the fingers. This makes the support convenient and comfortable during everyday activities. Find out for yourself!