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A repetitive motion injury (or overuse injury) involves doing an action over and over again, as with a baseball pitcher throwing a baseball, a tennis player hitting a tennis ball, typing at a computer keyboard, and most notoriously, typing with your thumbs on the tiny keypad of your phone. It may be reasonably asserted that our musculoskeletal systems were not designed for such repeated motion sequences utilizing small muscle groups, but rather for a wide variety of tasks involving bending, lifting, twisting and turning, and walking and running that confronted early human progenitors a million and more years ago.
The repeated movements implicated in overuse injuries cause inflammatory reactions, which affect muscle-tendon units that move bones and ligaments that hold joints together.1 The short-term result may be achy or sharp pain localized to a specific muscle or joint. Longer-term results of repetitive motion injuries include more frequent pain, possibly experienced throughout the day, and more significant structural damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. In the case or carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive use may permanently damage nerve bundles that supply the muscles and other soft tissues of the hand.2
Overall, it would be optimal to avoid repetitive motions altogether, but for almost all of us this is simply not an option. It would certainly be sensible to restrict typing on the keypad of our phones, but limiting typing on a full-size keyboard would conflict with the work environment in which most of us earn our livelihood. Whether we are writers, healthcare professionals, members of a sales team, data analysts, or human resource administrators at government or nonprofit agencies, working at a computer comprises a substantial portion of our work week, and may even extend into one or both days of what used to be known as a “weekend”. Similarly, athletes are not going to stop or limit participation in their sport owing to the possibility of a future repetitive motion injury.
The solution lies in a prevention program that incorporates graduated, comprehensive strength training activities into our regular exercise routines.3 Performing upper and lower body strength training exercises each week trains both large and small muscles groups to adapt to mechanical loads throughout a full range of motion. Beginners start with light weights and gradually increase the number of repetitions and the amount of the weight being lifted. Those who have done strength training in the past may have a shorter learning curve and more quickly re-adapt themselves to this critical and rewarding exercise environment. The key for everyone is to exercise each major muscle group, that is, the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs, at least one time per week on a consistent, ongoing basis.
Regular chiropractic care assists all of us in our exercise activities and in achieving our long-term health and wellness goals. By detecting and correcting spinal misalignments and sources of nerve interference, regular chiropractic care enables our bodies to receive and incorporate the full benefits of our healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy nutrition, sufficient restful sleep, and regular vigorous exercise. In this way, regular chiropractic care helps our families and ourselves to live full, healthy lives.
1 Warrender WJ, et al A Seasonal Variation in the Prevalence of Common Orthopaedic Upper Extremity Conditions. J Wrist Surg 7(3):232-236, 2018
2 Inge Petter Kleggetveit IP, Jørum E: Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome Scand J Pain Published Online: 2018-06-12; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sjpain-2018-0089
3 Pogorzelski J, Nonoperative treatment of five common shoulder injuries: A critical analysis. Obere Extrem 13(2):89-97, 2018; doi: 10.1007/s11678-018-0449-1