Repetitive Motion Injuries

Repetitive motion injuries, also called repetitive stress injuries, include carpal tunnel, tennis elbow and tendinitis. Overuse, improper form and poor workplace ergonomics are common causes but with chiropractic care, exercise and proper training, these injuries can heal.

What are some common names for certain repetitive motion injuries?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Wow, you know, there are so many repetitive motion injuries but, you know, the things that most people think of when they think of these things they call RSI or repetitive motion injuries, carpal tunnel is a very popular one, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis are by far the most popular in name but, generally, any bursitis or tendinitis, tendinosis. Really, all those things come under the title of repetitive motion injuries or repetitive stress injuries. Anything that, you know, you do over and over again, even the most simple movements, will start to aggravate if there is not enough rest and recuperation for the body to overcome those stresses and then we start to get the inflammation, the swelling, and the pain.

There are many different things. I mean, you can have repetitive motion issues like runner’s knee, which is a common lay term, but those are usually just the inflammatory processes that go on with it. So, even certain forms of arthritis could be considered repetitive motion injuries.

How do you know if you have a repetitive motion injury? What are the symptoms?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, pain in any joint, you know, or any area that gets overused, like tennis elbow is a popular repetitive motion injury especially for people who use a lot of top spin because turning the wrist over to put the top spin on the ball will really start to affect the forearm musculature. So, you’ll get pain, swelling, tenderness. Those are the main things that you’ll see.

Most people have a repetitive stress injury when they come into my office. They’re usually the ones telling me their diagnosis because they know what they’re doing, you know. They’re like, “Well, every time I run my knee hurts,” or “Every time I run I get, you know, plantar fasciitis,” or “Every time I play tennis, four hours later, my right arm is killing me and I can’t even open a jar.” So, these things are pretty easy to spot and, most of the time, people are pretty self-aware of what’s going on, but I think a lot of people – even myself included – are kind of these adrenaline and sports junkies and we get hooked on these things and we don’t want to stop doing them. We don’t listen to our body when it’s in pain and then we continue on with the activity and these things become more chronic and set up.

If someone is an athlete practicing the same sport over and over, how can they avoid a repetitive motion injury?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, I mean, obviously, being in good shape and exercising and stretching is a huge bonus because if you’re in good condition, the likelihood of a repetitive stress injury is going to be less. The weekend warrior is going to be a little bit more prone to those things and the weekend warrior needs to learn proper mechanics of their sports, so whether it be tennis or golf, you know, if you take instruction and you learn how to hit the ball properly no matter what your sport is, you’re going to do better because the mechanics of your swing is going to be smoother. So, those things are really important, so I tell people, just take some lessons and the pros are going to teach you how to avoid the bad habits that aggravate those conditions because if they’ve had a long career at it, they’ve obviously been doing things right.

So, it’s important to have good people around you and a proper personal trainer and having a good chiropractor and having a massage therapist to be able to deal with the things that you create and help aid in your recovery. You also need to recognize when you’re starting to develop these problems earlier because the earlier you identify them, the easier they are to treat. You know, but general rules of thumb, there’s always rest and ice and compression to manage these things properly. Just basically the most common thing is people are not giving their body enough time to recover and heal so these injuries become more chronic and more set up.

What can people do at work to avoid getting repetitive motion injuries?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, there are a lot of things that happen at work that can cause these repetitive motion injuries. Carpal tunnel, you know, if you’re on the keyboard all the time, but there are other people who work for the Post Office and they’re sorting letters or lifting and carrying boxes.

So, the most important thing when you’re at a desk is using good posture, using ergonomic chairs and desks and using stand-up desks. They have splints and wrist guards and wrist supports that can use on your keyboard.

If you’re doing heavy lifting, if you’re working in construction, using a back support, learning proper lifting technique, bending the knees.

The one thing that will help all of these people in common is getting their spine checked regularly. If you keep your spine and nerve system healthy, your body is going to work better. It’s going to be faster to heal and repair itself because, let’s be honest, when your body heals, it heals itself. It just replaces the damaged cells with healthy new ones, but that process requires time and most people don’t give their body enough time to rest and recover.

There are many, many things you can do at work depending on what you do for work but once these things start to develop, the help of a chiropractor or a massage therapist, using ice, and all those different things are really going to aid in preventing these things from becoming more chronic or a more permanent type of disability. So, I always tell people, when you’re at work, make sure you have an ergonomic set up. Use a standing desk. Don’t be sitting on your butt all day. Don’t fall into the chair. Actually, sit on a fit ball so it requires you to use your core to maintain proper strength and use your body to hold you upright. That activity and everything will engage different muscles and take the pressure off certain muscles that get over used. So, there are a myriad of things that you can do. It really depends on your job and the type of things, but I think that scratches the surface and gives people a good idea of what they can start doing.

What treatments are available to help with these injuries?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, obviously as a chiropractor, I’m a big proponent of chiropractic care and enhancing nerve system function and increasing the body’s ability to heal and adapt, but other things that are great is massage therapy and I use massage therapy once or twice a month easily to work on me because I’m constantly working on other people. You know, you can do cryotherapy, the ice, to help control the inflammation. There’s lots of stretching exercises that are extremely important. You know, just general stretching and at the point of pain, so whether it be in the forearm, the elbow, or in the shoulder. There’s stretching that can be done.

Maintaining a proper diet and nutrients and hydration are also very important for your body’s ability to heal. So, I just make sure that all of my patients know that they need to get their spine checked and there’s other things that they need to do, because chiropractic, – although it’s going to be very helpful – it’s not a panacea. It’s not going to cure everything that ails you. So, there are other people that we call in and I think that massage therapy is one of the better ones to repeat the RSIs.

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