I came across an article on Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) written by Paul Ingraham which addresses some rather interesting facts and fictions. I highly recommend you read the entire article if you wish to understand the topic in depth and the science behind it. Here I will just give a brief summary.
1) RSIs are not inflamed.
What is happening instead is that the tissue is degenerating (essentially, breaking down and rotting). It means that the body can’t repair the tissue at the same speed as it is breaking down.
The way to fix it is to let the muscle and area rest. Give the body a chance to heal itself. Icing and using anti-inflammatory medication does not work as there is no inflammation.
“So, if not anti-inflammatory treatments, then what? The take-home message is this: anatomical structures fail because they are over-loaded. Therefore, more than anything else, they need rest.“
2) RSIs are not a biomechanical failure.
Correcting posture and adjusting subtle things in the body won’t do the trick. If there are a biomechanical failure (poor posture, a leg shorter than the other etc), that would have asserted itself long before any RSI manifested.
“The huge majority of RSI sufferers have no obvious deformity or bizarre walk or blatant muscle wasting. If there’s anything wrong with their biomechanics, it can’t be adding very much stress to the equation … and yet they inspire most of the expensive therapy for RSIs.“
It is not a malfunction of the body that causes the RSI – it is too much use or wrong use of your body (eg using the computer all day long with no breaks in a poor work position).
3) RSIs mostly just need rest.
A boring fact, and not something anyone can make money on. Patience is such a hard lesson to learn, and we’re usually so busy in our lives that we can’t take the time to let our body heal itself. In other cases, we need to keep doing what causes the RSI in order to make a living. So rest isn’t the answer to all, but should certainly be tried as much as possible.
It takes time though. “According to Khan, it may take as much as two to three weeks of rest before a tendon even begins to start rebuilding, and rebuilding itself is achingly slow: about a hundred days for the tendon cells to build the collagen molecules that make up the bulk of a tendon. That’s three months!”
Who can stay away from their favourite sport, or their work for so long to let an injury heal?
4) RSIs are musclular.
“Nevertheless, every patient with an RSI, and every healthcare professional treating patients with RSIs, really needs to understand how surprisingly often muscle is a major factor, or even the entire problem. Large numbers of patients are diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury, when what they primarily have is a problem with trigger points, more commonly referred to as muscle knots.“
These are good news, as tight and knotted muscles can easily be treated. To put it short, massage addressing these trigger points and tense muscles can essentially solve the problems.
5) RSI plays head games.
Often RSIs are caused by things we either need to do or that we enjoy greatly doing. It is caused by something we do pretty much all the time and as such it affects a very large part of our lives. Our ability to work or play. Because it’s such a large part of our lives, we notice the pain and effects all the time, thereby making it feel even worse.
“Pain science research is extremely clear on this point: the emotional context of a pain strongly affects its severity and chronicity.“
On the long term, chronic pain can cause a range of emotional and psychological problems which also serves to aggravate the RSI. Depression, poor sleep, stress, anxiety and so on. This means that the emotional aspect needs to be address on equal footing with the muscular problems.
Luckily, massage can also aid on an emotional level as research shows the importance of touch in our lives for emotional and physical comfort.
If you have a repetitive strain injury, either full blown or in the building, do make sure you take the rest needed to let your body heal. If that isn’t enough, contact your massage therapist and explain the situation – both on a physical and emotional level.
Together, work out a treatment plan that will address your specific situation. Refer them to the article below if they’re still stuck in the old fashioned view on RSI.