Work-Related Repetitive Strain Injury of the Wrist and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Do you have problems with your office tasks, like typing or flipping pages of a report and often drops your pens and notes due to wrist pain with numbness and tingling sensation of the hand and the forearm? When you answer yes, then chances are that you may be suffering from repetitive strain injury of the wrist.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) results from repetitive overuse of the hands, such as with typing, clicking a mouse, or writing. The main causes of RSI identifiedre manual labor, office work, and the use of modern technological devices and gadgets. In a workplace environment, an office worker who uses a computer regularly is at risk of developing wrist pain from RSI.
The range of RSIs is wide, but this blog will focus mainly on those caused by working environments and the use of modern devices, such as the computers.
What is RSI of the Wrist?
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) refers to conditions resulting from cumulative trauma to any part of the body, usually the upper limb, due to prolonged and repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, mechanical compressions, or sometimes awkward hand positions and movements. The insult results in damage to the body’s soft tissues, causing pain, weakness, numbness, or impairment of motor control. The wrist and forearm are common sites of injury for RSI due the high demands for their use, with wrist pain as the most common complaint out of all RSI related injuries (Lacerda et al., 2005).
Anyone may wonder how simple activities such as typing and clicking a mouse button could possibly be harmful. Repeated hand movements sustained for long hours can eventually strain the muscles and tendons of the forearms, wrists, and fingers, and results in RSI. Unless interrupted and properly addressed, the symptoms can become chronic and problematic.
What are the Symptoms of Wrist RSI?
After a long session of computer use, one may feel pain in the fingers, palms and wrists. This is one of the first signs of wrist RSI. The pain may be described as burning, aching, or shooting and could be localized to the hands or diffused involving most of the arm, especially the forearms. Common symptoms of RSI are summarized as follows:
- Tenderness and burning, aching or shooting pain of the affected tendons and muscles
- Difficulty with hand functions, even with simple activities such as typing, opening doors, flipping pages and other tasks involving gripping
- Fatigue or reduced strength through the wrist and forearm
- Tremors, clumsiness and numbness
RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Some may identify RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) to be the same. Although some symptoms are often similar, they are actually completely different. Carpal tunnel is caused by direct trauma or compression to the median nerve between the transverse carpal ligament and the flexor tendons at the wrist while repetitive strain injury affects various parts of the body, most commonly the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Carpal tunnel syndrome was identified as the most frequent specific diagnosis related to RSI (Reis et al., 2000) due to the specific work-related conditions at work sites. While both injuries are relatively common, more people suffer from RSI than CTS.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of RSI, the most prevalent and costly RSI there is, and the most common nerve compression injury. Symptoms include:
- Dull, aching pain in the wrist and forearm with pain radiating to the fingers, often worse at night
- Burning wrist pain with tingling and numbness, pins and needles sensation, and sometimes loss of feeling in the thumb, index and middle finger
- Hand weakness in grasping, thumb and index finger pinching, and other thumb movements
- Clumsiness due to lack of control and coordination (dropping things)
How Can RSI and CTS be Treated?
Treatment strategies for RSIs vary depending on which part of the body is affected. For both RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome, early management as soon as the onset of symptoms is recognized is important to prevent complication of injury. In the early stages, simple remedies can provide relief and include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and antidepressants.
- The RICE protocol, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation during the early stages; switch to heat packs once inflammation resolves.
- Steroid injections are only advised during the inflammatory phase.
- Physical therapy, manual therapy and wrist bracing or splinting
- Surgical carpal tunnel release may be appropriate if symptoms are severe or don't respond to conservative treatments with the goal of decompressing the median nerve.
Ergonomic adjustments to your work station with emphasis on readjusting your chair and desk if you work at a computer and equipment modifications to minimize muscle strain and stress may be advised by your doctor or physical therapist.
Break Off from RSI and CTS Pain withRecovapro
Repetitive strain injuries in workplace are mainly caused by long hours in front of digital devices, such as computers and have been haunting office workers everywhere. Recovapro understands the need to provide effective solution where one could simply pull out from the bag to use and experience the immediate relief from RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Suggested Techniques and Methods
- With the forearm fully supported and the palm facing up, glide the Recovapro with the round head longitudinally from the wrist going up to the elbow on the medial side, then back down to the wrist. Perform successive stripping until the entire muscle group has been treated.
- Apply cross fiber compression strokes by moving the gun from side to side, from the wrist going up to the elbow. This technique works toward reducing tension and enhancing pliability in the wrist flexors.
- Finish the treatment by stretching the wrist flexors and transverse carpal ligament. Pull the wrist into hyperextension and the thumb into full extension. Hold this stretch position for about 15 seconds.
- If the condition is severe, treatment pressure, duration, and intensity must all be adjusted to the appropriate needs of the client to avoid aggressive application.
- Use caution with any technique that puts additional excessive pressure on the carpal tunnel region.