Whether you have an 8-5 desk job, work an assembly line graveyard shift, or you’re a hardcore gamer/streamer with a million fans, chances are you’ve felt some form of numbness from using your fingers for an extended period. It may even come as a lingering tingling sensation long after you’ve finished your daily task or won that online gaming match.
While you may shrug it off and find it gone the next day, repetitive motions involving your fingers, wrists, arms, and joints can result in repetitive strain injury (RSI), which is also known as repetitive stress injury. Forceful movements, constant vibration, and even awkward working positions can also increase the risk of developing this illness.
RSI can become increasingly painful and disruptive. If left untreated, it may result in weakness and disability. Should you experience pain and swelling from using your hands, arms, shoulders, or back for a long time, it’s best to know what treatment options are available.
Repetitive Strain Injury Treatment Options
Those who experience RSI symptoms need to consult with their doctor. Depending on the severity of your condition, they may recommend any of the following treatment options.
- R.I.C.E Method
R.I.C.E stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is the first aid for minor muscle pain and injury. Resting your hands, arms, back, and shoulders for 48 hours gives your body ample time to heal.
A cold gel pack or an ice-cube-filled towel can also help reduce pain and inflammation. Likewise, an elastic bandage, splint, or brace may also relieve further pressure and allow it to heal. You can also elevate the afflicted area from 6 to 10 inches above your heart, apart from ice and compression. This method promotes blood circulation and may reduce the symptoms of repetitive strain injury.
- Oral And Topical Medications
You can combine the R.I.C.E. method with medication to reduce pain and swelling faster. Over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may provide immediate relief from RSI. Moreover, topicals such as creams or lotions can soothe stiff and aching muscles.
- Steroid Injection
If you’re not keen on using oral or topical applications, you can consider corticosteroid injections as an alternative. These shots contain glucocorticoids or substances that reduce body inflammation. Injections reduce swelling in the affected area for up to 48 hours. However, they only work for temporary relief as prolonged use may lead to tissue damage and other health complications.
- Physical Therapy
Your doctor may also refer you to a physiotherapist or chiropractor to help you with your RSI. These specialists can formulate a treatment plan that may help reduce symptoms and improve your muscle strength.
Aside from therapy sessions, you can also perform simple exercises at home. Stress ball exercises can strengthen your grip, while finger and thumb extensions can exercise the muscles on your forearms.
- Dry Needling
Dry needling works much like acupuncture as it involves the insertion of thin needles into the affected area. The needles inserted on pressure points cause the muscle to loosen and relax, reducing pain and inflammation in the process.
Surgery is often the last resort when symptoms persist despite medication and other treatments. Usually reserved for severe RSI cases, surgery requires either cutting the damaged nerve or tendon to release pressure and alleviate pain.
- Low-Level Laser Therapy
Low-level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is an alternative solution to surgery. This non-invasive procedure uses cold laser beams to promote blood flow and oxygen delivery for faster healing and tissue regeneration.
LLLT is gaining popularity among people who suffer from repetitive strain injury because it provides immediate results and requires minimal recovery. Once tissues are restored, individuals can enjoy moderate stretching exercises and resume life as normal.
If you’re not keen on lasers or surgery, you might find cryotherapy a better option. This type of cold treatment works to stimulate the body’s healing process as it triggers the release of endorphins to block nerve connections and reduce pain signals. Cryotherapy requires you to submerge your entire body (except the head) in liquid nitrogen to maximize its healing effect.
You may think that yoga is mostly for fitness and meditation, but it may also help you manage symptoms of RSI. Meditation allows you to unlock the cause of injury and encourages you to try out healthier patterns of working or doing sports.
In addition, certain yoga poses may help minimize nerve compression and reduce stress on your joints. They may also help align your back and shoulders to achieve an ideal posture.
- Work And Lifestyle Modifications
Aside from suggesting therapy and other forms of treatment, your doctor may also provide advice on how you can prevent further injury. They can write out a recommendation for lighter workloads or suggest to your boss to provide ergonomic equipment.
In addition, they will also remind you to eat a well-balanced diet and get adequate amounts of rest and physical activity to sustain your recovery.
Don’t Let Repetitive Strain Injury Stop You
Repetitive strain injury can be painful and, at times, debilitating. If rest and medications do not reduce your symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor for suitable treatment options. Physical therapy, surgery, and other alternative options may help you recover quickly and allow you to enjoy working, playing, or both for the rest of your life.