Repetitive stress injuries can occur when you regularly use an area of your body as part of an active or professional lifestyle. Motions that include swinging, reaching or lifting that you repeat consistently throughout your day can result in a stress injury like tennis elbow, tendinitis (or tendonitis) or carpal tunnel syndrome, among others. These injuries can range from inflammation of muscle tissue or tendons to tears and nerve damage.
Active lifestyles are becoming more popular as people focus on the importance of physical health, but a repetitive stress injury can hinder anyone's lifestyle. These injuries extend to desk jobs, physically demanding careers, recreational sports and routine maintenance like yard work and cleaning the house. Although the goal of these common activities is to make our lives more comfortable, pushing yourself too hard while doing them may result in lost time and permanent damage. Though it can take days, weeks, or even years before these injuries develop, knowing the warning signs early can help to slow them down before they slow you down.
You might have heard the term “tennis elbow” before and, if you don't play tennis, thought that it wasn't anything you needed to worry about. But this stress injury can result from any activity that requires you to contract your forearm muscles or maneuver your arms over your head and, perhaps surprisingly, it is most common among non-tennis players.
Placing stress on the tendons in your elbow may cause micro-tears where the outer bone connects to your forearm muscle. Tennis players are repeatedly performing overhand serves or delivering strong, backhand swings, so less experienced players are more likely to develop this condition. But people working as plumbers, carpenters, butchers, chefs and in other labor-related careers with repetitive motions can also suffer from symptoms. Even musicians with repeated bowing motions have commonly experienced this problem.
Other repetitive stress injuries like golfer's elbow and pitcher's elbow are similar to tennis elbow. Like tennis elbow, pitcher's elbow affects the inner tendons of the elbow, but the term “golfer's elbow” refers to tendon injuries on the outer tendons. We associate these repetitive stress injuries with sports because young or beginning players are most likely to damage themselves since their bodies are not conditioned to the repetitive demands of the motions made in these sports.
However, wrist exercises like clenching a stress ball can help to condition your grip. You can also stretch your wrist by rotating your arm below the elbow as if you are turning a doorknob. These may help to prevent tennis elbow from developing by increasing mobility and strength in your muscle tissue.
Chiropractic treatment can alleviate symptoms without drugs or injections. Some chiropractors may use methods like myofascial release, a type of massage that stimulates connective muscle tissue. Other treatment may also include Active Release Therapy. This breaks up scar tissue and increases blood flow to the area to improve the rate at which the injury will heal. Manipulations can also be performed to allow for optimal movement of the elbow joint.
Daily repetitive micro-movements of the hands and fingers, such as when operating a cash register or working at a computer, are major contributors to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. This repetitive stress injury can be the result of using your hands, wrists and fingers throughout the day in task-oriented careers. Repeated movements are likely to cause irritation and swelling around the median nerve; once this irritation develops, the nerve becomes compressed. Then the carpal bone and surrounding tendons will be constricted you will begin to experience symptoms.
If you're suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, you may notice pain, numbness or a burning sensation in the hand and wrist area. You're also likely to notice a tingling sensation or the feeling that your hand has fallen asleep when grasping objects or making a fist.
Surprisingly, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the conditions that is most commonly treated by surgical procedures or steroid injections in the United States. However, roughly half of these invasive treatments are not successful.
Consider a consultation with a chiropractor before taking more drastic, permanent steps to rid yourself of symptoms. Chiropractors take low-risk, drug-free approaches to treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Some treatments include manipulations of the elbow or wrist, or adjustments of the cervical spine (neck). Since the median nerve originates in the upper spine, the origin of the problem might be found in your neck. A consultation with a chiropractor may help you to stay away from surgical procedures that might not work or that could limit your recovery.
There's no better way to keep yourself active and productive at work than to never develop a repetitive stress injury. But physical labor, exercise and recreational sports can be demanding. So to ensure that you'll remain in the game, at work and free of stress injuries, you should always be sure to know which areas of your body you'll be using most.
If you keep track of your work environment and intersperse physical demands with recovery breaks, you can keep yourself at work with maximum efficiency. This way you won't need to take days off or dig into vacation time to recover. And depending on the demands of your job, you can help protect yourself by using a back brace, arm rests, wrist supports or an ergonomically designed keyboard.
Also, keep track of each exercise session and how hard you push yourself to get a better idea of where your threshold into excess lies. Although it's sometimes good in exercise to go beyond your regular limit, don't make a habit of exerting all of your resources in one session.
These preventive measures help to avoid injuries, but if you're experiencing symptoms of a repetitive stress injury, consult with a chiropractor. Proactively seeking maintenance, information and solutions to your problem can speed up recovery time and help to prevent future injuries.