Ease Repetitive Strain Injuries: Targeted Exercises Lower Risk of Injury
Oct 31, 2018 12:27PM
By Marlaina Donato
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Weekend athletes, office workers and hobbyists greatly benefit from a balanced array of regular exercises as a preventive measure against injury. In our technological age, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is all too common, and anyone using a computer daily can be at risk. Sedentary lifestyles help set the stage for injury.
RSI is classified as a cumulative trauma disorder that can affect muscles, tendons and nerves of not only the forearm and hand, but also the neck and shoulders. Symptoms may include pain, weakness, numbness or compromised motor control. Carpal tunnel syndrome is just one example.
“Repetitive injuries occur by executing the same motions over and over again with little or no variation, and become syndromes when they occur frequently or chronically,” says Brian Lebo, a strength and conditioning coach and director of the Athletic Performance Training Center, in North Royalton, Ohio.
RSI Risk Factors
Poor posture, faulty movement technique and lack of periodic breaks from activities can play a major role in developing any form of RSI. “I find that people that maintain a balanced exercise routine tend to do the best in jobs that apply repetitive stresses. People that sit at a desk need core strengthening, flexibility work in the hips, wrists and hands, and work on the neck flexors of the cervical spine,” says Felipe J. Mares, a physical therapist and owner of PT First Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “People that exercise on a daily basis, regardless of their job, hold up better at work. There’s a lot of stored equity in muscle tissue and strength that comes in handy.”
Lebo elaborates, “Exercise is critical for improving quality of life for people that suffer from repetitive injuries or RSI because it provides variation from repetitive movement, strengthens muscle and connective tissue, stabilizes joints and improves the body’s response to physical stress. For people with desk jobs, I recommend taking 10 minutes to get up every hour on the hour and move around. Focus on mobility.”
The impulse to get outside, engage in a sport or push through limitations on weekends can lead to injury if exercising is not also part of the work week. “Do something on weekdays to support your weekend activity to prepare and strengthen your body specifically for it,” says Lebo. “For recreational athletes, I recommend performing some type of strength training to support the demands and movement patterns of your activity. For tendinitis or inflammation of the tendons—the most common type of repetitive injury—exercise can reverse or minimize injury following appropriate rest, together with physical therapy when indicated.”Basic strength training, maintaining a healthy weight and staying hydrated all help prevent injury and decrease the risk of reoccurrence.“Repetitive injuries that I see often are iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome, lower back pain and rotator cuff injuries. The main cause of these is overuse, faulty alignment and muscle compensation,” says Brooke Taylor, a functional training expert and owner of Taylored Fitness NY Ltd., in New York City.
“Functional training engages the body in multiplanar movements that simulate everyday motions. This forces the body to work as one unit, as opposed to isolating various body parts. The beauty is that with a well-designed program, you leave no muscle untouched. Functional training is beneficial for everyone, and one hour of training a day can make a huge difference. Get out and explore different activities and work opposing muscles. Make all parts of the body work as one,” counsels Taylor.
Whether injuries occur at the desk, on the soccer field or not at all, keeping the body fit is key. Mares reminds us that exercise is like sleep—something we all need and cannot avoid, saying, “Exercise is the great equalizer in life.”
Marlaina Donato is a freelance writer and authors books related to the fields of alternative health and spirituality. Connect at MarlainaDonato.com.
This article appears in the November 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.