When Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect: Repetitive Strain Injuries
Sometimes doing the same thing over and over makes us good at doing it. Other times, it just makes the thing harder to do. This is what happens with a repetitive strain injury (RSE). An RSE can result from all different types of activities: playing sports, typing on a keyboard, playing a musical instrument, doing needle arts, etc. One of the most commonly recognized RSI’s is Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, but there are many others. They can affect many parts of the body, including the shoulder, elbow, hands, knees, etc.
The constant vibration of power tools, compression (or squeezing), exposure to the cold for long periods of time and working from an awkward or uncomfortable position, can all contribute to an RSI. Symptoms include pain, swelling, numbness, weakness and tingling.
An RSI isn’t the result of a single, major, injury, but rather the accumulation of small injuries occurring again and again, without being given the chance to heal. Eventually an RSI can interfere with the ability to use the affected area.
Unfortunately, an RSI won’t just go away. Once damage has occurred, it’s necessary to seek medical treatment, which may include medication, surgery or rehabilitation therapy.
Like so many healthcare issues, RSI is usually simpler to prevent than it is to treat. Here are a few tips for avoiding an RSI:
Don’t engage in tasks that are not appropriate for your level of physical fitness, either in sports or at work. If you need to get in shape for a particular task, do it before undertaking the job. If you start a new sport, build your performance up gradually as your body adjusts to the new activity.
Even if you’re an advanced performer, don’t over train. Pushing your body a little can be good. Pushing it too much can cause an RSI, resulting in poorer performance in the long run.
Alternate tasks so that you’re not performing the same motions over and over.
Make sure that your office furniture, workbench or other work surface is comfortable and is properly adjusted to your height and reach.
Take frequent breaks, giving your body time to rest and recover.