In simple medical terms, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is defined as a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) stemming from prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements. The result is damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves of the neck, shoulder, forearm, and hand, which can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or impairment of motor control.
You may wonder how seemingly innocuous activities such as typing and clicking a mouse button could possibly be harmful. Fine hand movements, repeated hour after hour, day after day, thousands upon thousands of times, eventually strain the muscles and tendons of the forearms, wrists, and fingers, causing microscopic tears. Injured muscles tend to contract, decreasing the range of motion necessary for stress free work. The sheaths that cover delicate tendons run out of lubrication because they aren’t given time to rest, so tendon and sheath chafe, resulting in pain. Due to this abrasion, tendons become inflamed, and begin to pinch neighboring nerves. This can result in numbness, tingling, or hypersensitivity to touch. Unless this cycle is interrupted, it repeats itself over and over, and a long-term, chronic problem results.
Repetitive strain injury can affect more than just your hands and wrists. Poor posture can lead to severe neck and back injuries. Staring at a computer screen can lead to eye strain. Repetitive reaching for a mouse can lead to arm and neck strain as well as spinal asymmetry.
RSI is not a specific medical diagnosis, but rather a family of disorders. Many people mistakenly equate RSI with carpal tunnel syndrome, even though CTS is only one particular form of RSI. One recent study even reported that frequent computer users are no more likely to develop CTS than non-computer users. Don’t let this mislead you, though. Many other forms of RSI do come on as a result of frequent computer use.
If you feel like this applies to you, call Dr. Robert Hagan at Neuropax Clinic at 314-434-7784 or visit www.neuropaxclinic.com for more information. Don’t live in pain any longer than you have to.