Repetitive Stress Injuries and Ipods
Kent Chou, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic hand surgeon on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 846-7614.
Question: What are repetitive stress injuries, and is it true that people can suffer these injuries from sending text messages or using iPods?
Answer: Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), also known as repetitive strain injuries, can result from repeated movements of a body part such as the hand or wrist, especially if those movements are awkward or forceful. Such movements can irritate or inflame structures such as tendons, muscles, joints, and nerves. Without appropriate rest, this can lead to temporary or even permanent tissue damage. Symptoms of RSI may include pain, swelling, stiffness, weakness, numbness, and hypersensitivity. RSI is not a true medical diagnosis, but instead refers to a spectrum of conditions which may include various forms of tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even arthritis.
RSIs are most commonly seen in adults who do most of their work on computers. With the dramatic increase in the use of handheld devices such as cellular telephones, pocket PCs, iPods, and video games, however, they are now being seen with greater frequency in young people. RSIs can also occur in athletes of any age.
As with all medical conditions, prevention of RSIs is preferable to treatment. RSIs can be prevented by avoidance of repetitious, awkward, or forceful movements, or at least by taking frequent short breaks from such activities. Stretching prior to work or athletic participation can be very helpful. Good body and upper extremity posture while keyboarding is also critical. Maintenance of good cardiovascular health and optimal control of other health issues such as diabetes and obesity can also limit the incidence of RSIs.
If prevention fails, RSIs can be treated with splinting, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy. Some experts also recommend massage or exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and pilates. An ergonomic evaluation of the workplace can provide helpful information. If RSI symptoms persist despite these suggestions, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a physician.