Over-use Syndromes

  • Written by Dr. Lucas Szczepanik B.Sc., D.C.

    Have you ever wondered why an activity like swinging a golf club, typing on a computer, or doing housework can cause muscle and joint pain? It is a phenomenon known as Overuse Syndrome, or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). No single activity uses every muscle in the body. Therefore each activity can cause overuse-type symptoms in different parts of the body. Activities like swinging a golf club use the shoulder muscles and require a fair amount of twisting in the mid to lower back. Computer work for long periods of time uses the wrist muscles and postural muscles in the neck, mid back, and lower back. An example of an overuse syndrome in the wrist would be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, in the shoulder it would be called Impingement Syndrome, in the elbow it could be Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow. Some activities, like computer work, are a part of our work day and are difficult to avoid. The best strategy is to take action steps before symptoms begin to show. Here are some tips to avoid overuse syndromes.

    1. 1) Avoid dehydration. Attempt to drink one to two 8 oz. glasses of water (spring or filtered) every two hours. Dehydration greatly slows the healing process.

    2. 2) Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. These will dehydrate you and cause unwanted tension in the muscles.

    3. 3) Before you begin your day stretch your muscles. Performing light exercises in combination with stretches will help you loosen the muscles before activity. Stretching exercises should also be performed at least one per hour while at work (provided by a health care provider)

    4. 4) Take frequent breaks to rest muscles and to stretch. At least one 5 minute rest every 30 minutes.

    5. 5) Watch your posture while working. If you have questions regarding specific work-related postures, ask your Chiropractor.

    6. 6) Cold environments will worsen RSI conditions because of decreased blood flow to the tissues. If you find yourself in a cold environment, take steps to correct it (i.e. wear gloves, buy a space heater, etc.)

    7. 7) Avoid activities that flare up the condition. Sports involving heavy shoulder and arm use should be avoided. Other activities like sewing, computer work, sweeping & vacuuming, should be avoided because of their repetitive nature.

    8. 8) Use ice, either an ice pack or by using a Dixie cup ice massage to relieve swollen inflamed tissues. When using an ice pack. always place a moist towel between your skin and the ice pack. Ask your chiropractor on the proper technique for ice massage. Ice should be used for no longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. Take a half-hour break before applying again.

    9. 9) Moist Heat. If the muscles in your neck and back are sore and tense, moist heat may be affective in relieving the pain. As with ice, use heat for periods of 20 minutes at a time. Take the heat off for 20 to 30 minutes between sessions. If you feel worse after using heat, apply ice for 15 minutes. This will decrease the swelling present. Avoid heat if this is the case.

    10. 10) Visit a Doctor of Chiropractic should you experience any continuing musculoskeletal problems. The list shown above is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition.



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