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We are what we repeatedly do...

We are what we repeatedly do...

Our bodies tell a story of what we do all day long, everybody tells a different story because we are what we repeatedly do and repetitive strain injuries are a product of that repetition; they develop over time well after bad postural habits are formed.  Sometimes these habits are so seemingly small and insignificant that we don't even realise strain patterns are forming, until perhaps someone like myself starts finding tender points in places you didn't know were sore.

RSI injuries take time to heal and it is important to remember that time does heal all wounds, however we are all impatient and no one likes to be in pain.  The good news about RSI injuries taking a long time to develop means that there are plenty of opportunities along the way to do something about it before it becomes problematic. Remember prevention is best.

In order to understand how to prevent injuries caused by what we do all day long, first we must understand how these injuries slowly develop and what these injuries actually are.

RSI injuries are characterised by repetitive strain; they can be formed from sitting at a desk and clicking on the mouse all day long, or they could be formed from manual labour such as digging, cleaning; or from sport, most commonly sports that require repetitive over the head movements.  Repetitive strain injuries in the office occur in the shoulder/wrist/arm/neck region and are a result of repetitive tasks performed in a fixed posture causing pain and inflammation.

You may be familiar with the following RSI type injuries:

Carpal tunnel - Characterised by pain in Wrist with Pins and needles at night time in the hands.
Tennis Elbow- Characterised by pain on the outside of the elbow causing weakness in grip.
Golfers Elbow-Characterised by pain on the inside of the elbow radiating into the forearm.

There are some important factors that contribute to RSI injuries that are worth a mention and some consideration:
-Poor posture
-Office job requiring constant computer use
-Poor ergonomics at your desk
-Lack of exercise
-Underlying medical conditions

All of these risk factors need daily consideration when working at a desk, bad habits evolve over time and with these bad habits strain patterns develop, which the body will compensate until it can no longer compensate and pain develops.  Usually what I see with RSI injuries in the neck/shoulder/elbow/wrist is postural problems arising in the lower back and hips that the body has been compensating for over time, this results in tension between the shoulders and into the neck before creeping down into the arms, forearms and eventually the wrist.   Unfortunately by the time you get pain in your elbow and wrist the underlying postural problem began well before the point of pain is felt and needs to be addressed in order to start the healing process.   If you begin to change the way in which we are accustomed to thinking about the body; being a sum of it’s parts and start to think of the body as a structure with communication systems, one being a pulley system run by the connective tissue, then you can start to appreciate that a pull down in the hip will have a pulling affect in the shoulder and into the arm.

By understanding the way strain patterns begin and how they develop over time is the key to preventing and managing RSI injuries in the work place. Little things like always crossing your right leg over your left when you sit at the desk or on your couch contribute to these small postural strains developing over time.  If you are constantly talking to the person on your right all day long without moving your whole body to look in that direction your body will adjust accordingly to favour that side causing asymmetry and lines of tension that need somewhere to go.

This is the reason why getting up and moving around the office can be so important for your health. Not only are you increasing your circulation hence aiding waste removal from your tissues you are also giving your body a break from these strain patterns developing over the course of the day.   This is where stretching is of great benefit to remind the body to unwind and let go of any strain patterns that are developing from holding certain postures for extended periods.  Getting up and stretching at regular intervals throughout the day, making sure that wherever possible you are not sitting in one position longer than an hour is the best thing you can do to prevent RSI injuries.

Stress also plays a role in contributing to RSI injuries and sometimes stress and long hours at the desk are unavoidable, however when you are snowed under with work and stressed out, this is the time when getting up and moving around with a bit of a stretch will have the most impact, because as we all know, when we feel stressed and overwhelmed that is the time we form bad habits and forget to put our health as a priority.

It is also important to make sure that if you have tension in your lower back, neck and shoulders don’t leave it too long to do something about it, getting regular massages;acupuncture; regular stretching, Osteopathy and or other allied health modalities will go a long way to helping you prevent postural strains that end up in RSI injuries.

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