Repetitive Strain in the Upper Extremity

Posted on 8/23/2018 by Marge Krengel, OTR/L, CHT

 

Summer activities often mean more upper extremity injuries associated with overuse, poor posture and unconditioned muscles. In the summer, everyone is excited to get outside and work on gardening, lawn improvement and home repair projects. Others are going back to the gym or taking up sports like tennis and golf.

The terms “wear and tear,” overuse injuries, osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease have been used in the past to describe these types of injuries. More recently, terms such as repetitive motion injury, repetitive strain injury and cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) are used to define and diagnosis musculoskeletal impairments caused by overuse.

An overuse injury can happen when you try to take on too much physical activity too quickly or when you are causing repetitive trauma to a muscle or joint. For example, if you use poor form as you perform strength training exercises or throw a baseball, you may overload certain muscles and cause an overuse injury.

Certified hand therapists are specifically trained in job and activity analysis and to address CTDs. We have many methods to decrease pain, inflammation and recondition the injured area to tolerate normal use again. In addition to eliminating pain, therapists can educate individuals on different ways to perform the same activities and lower re-injury. Our goal is to return patients to the level of activity they are accustomed to.

Here are few ideas shared by the American Society of Hand Therapists for preventative treatment:

A therapist can assess your work, leisure or home repair activities by simulating these in the center or looking at photos or videos of you performing an activity. If you are having problems at work, in some instances the therapist can visit your job site.
Sometimes different tools are needed. If you find you are adding padding or modifying how you are doing something, then the tools being used should be re-evaluated for their effectiveness. Ergonomically designed tools are available.
Take 30-second breaks every 15 to 30 minutes when performing repetitive activities. Use this time to stretch the muscles in the opposite direction from your working pattern.
If possible, break up your day with different activities to avoid over-repetition with one activity.
In addition to these tips, a therapist can design exercises specific to your unique needs to address your upper extremity condition.
Speak with your physician before starting any new activity or ramping up your current routine and contact a hand therapist if you are experiencing pain in your hand, wrist, elbow, arm or shoulder. Regardless of the activity you want to enjoy, make sure you can reach your optimal performance and avoid unnecessary injuries.

Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and remember to see a certified hand therapist if you need help reaching your goals!

By: Marge Krengel, OTR/L, CHT. Marge is an occupational and certified hand therapist for Emory Rehabilitation Outpatient Center in Marietta, GA.

Emory Rehabilitation, Select Physical Therapy and NovaCare Rehabilitation are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.