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Repetitive strain injury physical therapy: How PT can treat RSIs

3 minutes, 57 seconds

When you think of the word injury, you probably picture a traumatic event. You might picture someone falling off a bike and breaking their arm or someone spraining their ankle in a soccer game.

Not all injuries stem from a traumatic event, though. Repetitive strain injuries can actually be caused by very mundane activities like typing or sewing.

In this article, we'll explain what repetitive strain injuries are and how they affect your body. We'll also discuss repetitive strain injury physical therapy to show you how movement specialists treat these conditions.

What is a repetitive strain injury?

Repetitive strain injuries, also known as repetitive stress injuries or repetitive motion disorders, occur when you perform the same physical action over and over to the point that it damages your body. They can affect any part of the body but, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most frequently affect the upper extremities.

Repetitive stress injuries usually stem from work-related activities, as it's common for people to repeat the same motion for hours on end during their workday. However, they can also occur in athletes, musicians and other people who perform repetitive tasks.

Common causes of repetitive stress injuries

There are many activities that could lead you to seek physical therapy for a repetitive strain injury:

  • Painting.
  • Cutting with small knives.
  • Using heavy tools.
  • Mopping or vacuuming.
  • Repetitive factory work.
  • Heavy lifting.
  • Sewing.
  • Driving.
  • Scanning items at a checkout counter.
  • Extending limbs outward with no support.
  • Using jackhammers.
  • Sitting.

Please note that these are only a few examples of activities that cause repetitive stress. Any motion performed repeatedly for extended periods could cause tissue damage.

Common repetitive motion disorders

Repetitive stress can cause several conditions. Here are a just a few common ones:

  • Shin splints ” Tears in the muscles or tendons in the lower leg.
  • Bursitis ” Inflammation of the small sacs that cushion the joints.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome ” Pinched nerves in the wrist area.
  • Tendinitis ” Inflammation in the tissue that connects the muscle to the bone.
  • Tennis elbow ” Inflammation on the outside of the elbow.
  • Golfer's elbow ” Inflammation on the inside of the elbow.
  • Trigger finger ” Inflammation in the finger tendons.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome ” A pinched nerve in your neck.
  • Strains and sprains ” Damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Symptoms of repetitive stress injuries

While there are many different causes of repetitive stress and types of repetitive motion disorders, there are some common symptoms that appear across most of them.

If you frequently or have recently performed some type of repetitive activity and are experiencing pain, look for these symptoms:

  • Swelling.
  • Numbness.
  • Stiffness.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Tenderness to the touch.
  • Sensitivity to temperature changes.
  • Increased pain when performing a repetitive activity you perform often.

Although these symptoms could point to other issues, they may be signs that you should seek physical therapy for a repetitive strain injury.

How does physical therapy treat repetitive strain injuries?

Physical therapy can have many benefits for people suffering from repetitive strain injuries. Here are a few of the treatment methods your physical therapist might use to treat your injury:

  • Manual therapy ” Manual therapy is a physical therapy treatment that involves the therapist manually manipulating your bones and soft tissue with their hands. It can help to restore elasticity in your soft tissue, which relieves any tension.
  • Joint mobilization Joint mobilization is a manual therapy technique that focuses on restoring range of motion in the joints. If your repetitive stress disorder causes stiffness or limits your ability to move your limbs, joint mobilization can help.
  • Therapeutic exercises When you seek physical therapy for a repetitive strain injury, your therapist will coach you through exercises that help you build strength and flexibility in the injured area. This can lead to reduced pain over time.
  • Cold therapy Ice is another form of pain relief for injuries and can be particularly effective in combination with other forms of physical therapy. The cold temperature restricts your blood flow to the affected area, which numbs your body part and provides temporary pain relief.
  • Aquatic therapy Aquatic therapy allows you to partake in physical therapy without the risk of falling or putting added stress on your lower extremities. Only some patients need this treatment, but it can be effective.
  • Movement coaching ” In addition to relieving your pain, physical therapy can help you to avoid reinjuring yourself in the future. Your physical therapist will teach you how to perform the repetitive motions of your job or daily life in a safer manner.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch physical therapy for repetitive strain injuries

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we're proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that's close to you and that can help you address repetitive stress.

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

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