Experiencing a tingling feeling in your wrist or stiffness in your neck? Don’t ignore it! You may be suffering from a Repetitive Stress Injury.

One of the biggest challenges to our health today is the amount of time we spend on activities that cause strain on our bodies. From staying slumped over the desk for long hours to engaging in high-intensity activity, repeated use of the same movement causes inflammation and damage to muscles, nerves and tendons in the body.

The number of Indians suffering from Repetitive Stress Injury, also referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), is on the rise today. One study by RECOUP, a Bangalore-based Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre, reveals that up to 75% of population working in the IT, BPOs and the call centre industry are at risk and are exhibiting symptoms of RSI.

What causes Repetitive Stress Injury?

Tiny tears in the muscle or tendon tissue are routine but any pain or damage caused is usually healed with rest. However, without rest, the structure of the muscle or tendon is impacted.

When the muscles are damaged or become tight due to overuse, the nerves that run through can also become inflamed and sore. Over time, this impacts posture and movement, leading to joint pain and stiffness.

Common symptoms of RSI are:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Weakness
  • Cramps

Repetitive stress injuries can be classified into two types:

Type 1

These are well-defined conditions that can be diagnosed easily, due to the availability of measurable evidence. Examples of Type 1 repetitive stress injuries include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    A hand and arm condition caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist, it manifests through numbness and tingling in the affected area. It impacts wrist and hand movement.

pinched nerve in your wrist

  • Tendonitis

    This is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon – a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle. It can occur in almost any area of the body, but is most commonly found at the base of the thumb, elbow, shoulder, hip and knee. Tendonitis of the shoulder is known to occur among office-goers who carry heavy laptop bags and walk long distances.

  • Tenosynovitis

    Another type of tendon injury that causes inflammation of the tendon lining. Symptoms include joint stiffness and swelling of the affected area.

  • Bursitis

    Small fluid-filled sacs called bursae cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed. Common symptoms include pain, tenderness and decreased range of motion over the affected area.

Type 2

Also known as Diffuse RSI or non-specific pain syndrome, these are limb disorders that are more difficult to diagnose and treat, as they do not provide clear measurable evidence such as swelling, deformation, dysfunction, etc.

How can one avoid repetitive stress injury?

Poor posture, poor exercise technique and overuse are the three main causes of repetitive stress injuries, so these tips can help prevent it:

  • Maintain a neutral body position (a posture in which your joints are naturally aligned). Keep your head level, forward facing and in line with the torso. Place your feet flat on the floor or a footrest. Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang down.
  • Ensure that your workstation is ergonomically sound (see image below).

neutral body position

  • When seated, try and maintain good posture. Your head and back should form a straight line from your ears to your pelvis.
  • When typing, ensure that your wrists are not bent to one side. Keep them pointing in a straight line with your forearm.
  • Take regular breaks from repetitive tasks.
  • Make it a point to get up once every hour. Walk around, stretching your arms and wrists, and also straighten your fingers.
  • Perform muscle-relaxing breathing techniques such as pranayam at your desk every couple of hours.
  • Do adequate warm-up and cool-down routines when you workout. This is vital to maintain tendon and bursae health over the years.

Try these exercises to prevent RSI

Back stretch

  • Sit on the edge of your chair, feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean over till your chest touches your knees.
  • Let your arms dangle to the floor and relax your neck.

Cross your arms

arm straight

  • Extend one arm straight out in front of you.
  • With the other hand, grab the elbow of the outstretched arm and pull towards your chest.
  • Repeat with the other arm.

Twist your torso

  • Sit up straight and inhale.
  • Exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of the chair with your right hand and the arm of the chair with your left hand.
  • Repeat with other side.

Leg stretches

  • Sit down with your back straight.
  • Hold the seat of your chair, and extend legs straight out in front of you until they are parallel with the floor.
  • Point and flex your toes five times.

Sit and stand

  • Stand up and sit back down in your chair without using your hands.

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Written by Meenakshi S.

Meenakshi S.

“Fitness begins at home, the food we eat and daily core activities like sleep and mind, body and spirit relaxation,” says nutritionist and physiotherapist Meenakshi S. Along with a master’s degree in physiotherapy from Oxford College, Bangalore and MD in alternative medicines, Meenakshi is also a child birth educator, pre and post-natal fitness expert and ACSM health and fitness specialist. Attributing the root cause of most lifestyle diseases to today’s sedentary pace, she shares HealthifyMe’s vision that healthy habits must be incorporated into your existing lifestyle. “Do not think of diet and exercise as sacrifice, make it a habit and enjoy it instead,” she says, recommending small changes to ease the mind and body towards a more wholesome life. Being skinny isn’t a sign of being fit or healthy, says Meenakshi, of the opinion that it’s important to test other physical fitness parameters like muscle strength, endurance and body composition. She’s charged for change – are you?

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