Repetitive Motion Injuries

A Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI) is the painful result of ordinary activities that we perform over and over until an injury occurs. If you’ve ever suffered from lasting pain in your neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands, you know how irritating these injuries can be.

A good way of describing an RMI is a “wear and tear injury”. If you are feeling stiff or sore, it might be an early warning sign that you are overusing your body. Here are some risky activities that will dramatically increase your chances of an RMI:

Awkward posture — Poor posture such as leaning forward, slouching, or twisting your body.

Excessive force — Lifting heavy objects or using localized pressure, as when using a stapler.

Holding one position — Staying in any one position for too long.

A high level of stress — Stress leading to tension, fatigue and injury.

What are the most common types of RMI?

RMI pain is triggered by pinched nerves or irritation of your body’s soft tissue, such as tendons and muscles. The most common RMIs are:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome — Many tendons, and the median nerve, run through the tunnel formed by your wrist bones. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tendons become inflamed and pinch the median nerve. Early symptoms often appear as numbness, tingling or pain in the hand or forearm. If untreated, this syndrome can cause permanent nerve damage.

To prevent this from happening, try to keep your wrists straight when using a computer, working with tools, or playing sports. Avoid bending or twisting your wrists into awkward postures for long periods of time.

Tendinitis — Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendons that attach your muscles to your bones, and it can occur almost anywhere in the body. People with tendinitis feel recurring pain and stiffness. Staying in good physical condition and using good posture techniques can help prevent the recurrence of tendinitis.

Prevention Is Better Than Pain

Prevention is the key to lowering your risk of injury-and to making your day more healthy, relaxed, and productive. Here are three essential keys to prevention:

Positioning — Remember your posture! Whether standing or sitting, use neutral positioning, which means keep your shoulders and hips level and “keep your spine in line” by holding your back upright (but not rigid). Avoid stressful postures like twisting your back, crossing your legs, or hunching your shoulders.

Pacing — Pacing yourself means varying your activities and changing your position as often as possible during your day. It also means staying calm and relaxed while you work, which may even help you be more productive.

Breaks — Be sure to take the lunchtime and other breaks that you’re entitled to. In addition, mini-breaks are recommended every 15 minutes to relieve built-up tension. Sitting for long periods of time is especially unhealthy; standing and stretching for 10 seconds can provide a good mini-break.

Quick Safety Tips for Your Daily Activities

Jobs involving physical activity — Be very cautious when moving heavy objects, and remember that pushing is easier on your back than pulling. Try to avoid reaching for objects above your shoulders.

Working at a desk — Sit in a neutral position with your back upright, both feet flat on the floor or a footrest, shoulders relaxed, wrists straight, and fingers relaxed. Keep your back against the chair back. Don’t slump, bend over, or lean sideways when writing or using the phone.

Computer users — Keep your wrists straight and fingers relaxed at the keyboard. Adjust the top of the screen to be even with your eye level, and place a document holder next to the screen so you don’t have to bend and twist to see what you’re typing.

Other daily activities — Take a look at everything you do in a day, including your hobbies and the time you spend driving, and remember to use neutral positions, pacing and breaks.

Everyone Needs Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for preventing injuries, even if you only do a little each day. People who are recovering from injuries must be cautious about exercise, but walking is almost always a safe activity. A complete exercise program includes muscle toning, cardiovascular activity, and stretching.

Gentle, slow stretching done every day will bring you big benefits. Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds, take deep breaths, and don’t bounce. A little discomfort or soreness is OK, but if you feel any sharp pain, stop right away.

Getting Treatment

Doctors often prescribe rest, immobilization, physical or occupational therapy, and anti-inflammatory drugs for an RMI. Surgery is only used when more conservative intervention is not effective. Many people have also found relief through exercise, massage therapy, chiropractors, or acupuncture.

If you think you are developing an RMI, the earlier you seek out a medical professional the better. Make an appointment with your on-site occupational health office, if you have one, or with your primary care physician.

If you want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to do it alone. Simi Valley Hospital can help. Please call our us at (805) 955-6890 to find out about our free and low-cost health classes. We can also help you find a physician; just call Referral Services at (805) 955-6900.

Note: This is for information purposes only and not intended for use in place of the advice of a physician.