Quiz time! What do these three people have in common?
Samantha, a 31-year-old administrative assistant
Chris, a 19-year-old pro video gamer
Robert, a 47-year-old assembly line worker
If you guessed they’re all at risk for a repetitive joint injury, you’d be right!
In fact, anyone can develop a joint problem as a result of using the same part of the body over and over again. That includes athletes, even young ones; tradespeople like painters; those who work in retail; and people who sit all day.
Which Joints Can Develop Stress Injuries?
While all joints can become sore and inflamed as a result of using them in the same way over and over, some of these injuries are very common due to lifestyle, habit and occupation.
Elbows. Yes, tennis elbow is a real thing, although you don’t have to be a tennis player to develop it. People who use hand tools a lot or play other sports can also get it. The technical term for this condition is “lateral epicondylitis.” It happens when you overuse the muscle in your forearm or repeatedly twist your wrist. This causes injury to the tendon that supports your elbow joint, causing inflammation and pain.
Wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve that runs through the narrow channel inside your wrist becomes compressed due to swelling in the area. Physical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can cause this, as can any repetitive motion done with the hand, like using a computer or playing a video game, or by using hand tools that vibrate, like saws and drills. All the people mentioned in our quiz could potentially develop carpal tunnel.
Shoulders. The rotator cuff joint in your shoulder can become irritated if you keep it in the same position a lot or use it repeatedly to perform the same motion, just as with tennis elbow. Triggers can include sports (think of a baseball pitcher), certain trades like painting, and even sleeping or sitting in the same position all the time. Having your shoulder crunched up to your ear to support a phone without using your hands can not only affect your shoulder, it can cause strain to your neck as well.
Neck. Those who sit with their necks turned for long periods of time (think of grocery store cashiers) or who need to tilt their heads up or down for hours each day to see a computer screen are at risk of developing a strain. This is more common in those who work long hours each day without taking breaks. However, slouching, looking down at your phone for hours or reading in bed can also cause a repetitive neck injury.
Knees. The knee is the joint most likely to be injured, and those who engage in high impact sports, including running, jumping and gymnastics, run the greatest chance of a repetitive injury. While the way a person’s body is naturally aligned has a good deal to do with the risk, suddenly ramping up activity or wearing shoes with inadequate support can increase the likelihood of a knee problem.
What You Can Do
There are natural precautions you can take to help protect yourself against a repetitive joint injury.
Take breaks. Don’t hold the same position or do the same thing over and over for hours at a time. If you work in a sedentary job, get up, walk around and stretch periodically, including your hands and fingers. If you do a physical job or engage in sports, take a rest break and remember to stay hydrated.
Maintain good posture. The natural tendency for many office workers is to slump forward while sitting. This puts unnatural strain on the back, shoulders and neck. Adjust the height of your keyboard so you can type without bending over and place your monitor at a height where you can see it without having to crane your neck up or down.
Develop good habits. Ditch the heavy shoulder bag in place of something that more evenly distributes the weight, like a padded backpack. Quit smoking if you can, since that contributes to neck pain. Take care to change up your sleeping position—use extra pillows to straighten out your body, if necessary. And be sure to wear good, supportive shoes.
Try basic first aid. Sometimes icing a sore joint will help (but don’t apply heat until the swelling lets up). Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide some relief, and if you can take a day or two off to rest or do a different job for a while, that may give the sore joint some time to heal on its own.
Know when to get help. If you’re experiencing constant pain or soreness to the point where you can’t perform your normal activities and the problem’s not going away, chances are you need help. Flexogenix® can target what’s causing your pain and recommend a course of treatment that restores mobility without the risks of invasive surgery.
We depend upon our joints to work, play and spend time with family and friends. You don’t need to suffer constant pain and disability due to a repetitive stress injury. Contact Flexogenix® today and let us help you get back to living your life.