What is One of the Most Popular Reasons for Repetitive Strain Injury?

159627312_2670919bWritten by Dr. Marcus Wong

Ten years ago, if someone asked a practitioner this question, the answer would simply be ‘from the work place’.  Ergonomic problems in the work force have caused many injuries, resulting in millions of dollars spent in health care each year in North America.  There are usually two main kinds of injuries that occurs to a patient.  The first and most obvious is ‘direct trauma’. This is when the patient falls or injures themselves in sports and activities. The second type is less recognized, but most common. The ‘repetitive strain’ injury occurs most often when an action at work or from a hobby consists of the same repetitive moments and/or posture.  This repetitive motion will result in misalignment in the spine and cause muscle imbalance.  From this, symptoms arise and patients feel discomfort.

Ironically, what causes this popular type of injury today isn’t just from the work force alone, but also from the same technology that makes our lives more enjoyable, convenient and overall ‘better’.  Several new studies show that the #1 cause of repetitive strain injury is from overuse of electronic handheld devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and handheld gaming devices.  The average adult uses these devices for 5-6 hours per day. This problem affects both adults and children as parents frequently allow their young children to use these handheld devices. Soon enough, their children will suffer from the same physiological strain just like their parents and this problem will affect many generations.

young_boy_textingLet’s talk a little bit about what is happening to our body when we are using these handheld devices for long periods of time.  On average, our head  weighs about ten pounds. As we look down on our mobile phones or tablets, our head is pushed forward, adding extra pressure and weight.  This extra weight is mainly supported by your cervical spine or the neck.  The extended time will cause the joints to compress and become misaligned, in turn causing the supporting muscles to go into spasms.  This is when the patient feels stiffness and pain.  These symptoms can radiate to the shoulders and mid-back.  In some severe cases, headaches will result from this sustained posture.  These may be simple acute symptoms, but long-term damage may result in chronic cervical spinal misalignment and muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves. Over time, it can even flatten or reverse the natural curve of your neck.  Due to prolong strain on your neck, this will eventually lead to issues in mid and lower back.  Symptoms of the lower back is the same as the neck.

Since these electronic devices have been integrated into our daily lives already, there are some steps to take that can help and/or prevent repetitive strain injuries to our neck.  A simple rule of thumb as with any postural issue is to take micro breaks in between long sessions of using these devices.  Regular stretches and postural exercises should be done as well.  Please refer to the exercise portion of our website for more information and instruction on proper stretching and postural techniques.

As with work force injuries, using electronic devices have been so embedded and implemented into our lifestyle that it is inevitable that majority of us will suffer from these symptoms.  For acute and/or chronic symptoms, chiropractic adjustments along with massage therapy and/or acupuncture has been effectively shown to manage repetitive strain injuries.

If you have any questions please contact Dr. Marcus Wong at drwong@truehealthstudio.com