Repetitive stress injury painful, but easy to prevent | PostIndependent.com
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Repetitive stress injury painful, but easy to prevent

Sitting up straight with an open chest and feet on the floor in a chair that is high enough for the wrists to angle neither up nor down is proper posture. Hands should not rest on key board while typing. Post Independent Photo Illustration/Kelley Cox
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For sixth months, the pain in Dan Maguire’s hands and forearms made eating, getting out of the shower and getting dressed nearly impossible.”I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything,” said Maguire, 31, of Rifle. “It was like being in handcuffs.”Maguire is recovering from repetitive strain injury, which damages tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissue. Poor posture and repetitive hand movements cause the injury.Repetitive stress injury is most common among hairdressers, musicians and computer users.The injury commonly is misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that directly affects small muscles and tendons in the hands. Repetitive strain injury affects small muscles but stems from stress in the shoulders, chest and back, according to the Repetitive Strain Program, a Web site about repetitive stress injury. Tight upper body muscles cause computer users to slouch and develop bad posture. Bad posture allows the shoulders to roll forward, the spine to curve and the upper chest to collapse, according to the Repetitive Strain Program.As a result, nerves in the shoulders, chest and upper arms get pinched, which pulls the arms forward. This shifts the burden to small muscle groups that can’t handle the strain.

As a bookkeeper, Maguire did 12 hours of data entry every day, five times a week.”I started feeling soreness in my hands while working,” Maguire said. “When I stopped working the pain stopped so I ignored it for about a year.”Maguire’s arms and hands became tender to the touch, and were frequently tingly and numb.”Eventually, my hands hurt after a full night’s sleep,” Maguire said. “That’s when I realized it was serious.”A general practitioner diagnosed Maguire with carpal tunnel and gave him pain killers which did nothing to improve his condition.Frustrated, in pain and unable to work, Maguire went to a hand specialist and started an intensive regimen including massage to break up scar tissue in his arms, yoga to loosen large muscle groups and improve posture and a support group.”The support groups were primarily women,” Maguire said. “Some of them were so distraught they were suicidal.”Superna Damany is a physical therapist at the Hands on Healing Physical Therapy Center in Pennsylvania.”There’s some kind of stigma that goes with this problem,” said Damany. “A lot of people think only slackers have repetitive strain injury. People with repetitive strain injury are usually overachievers.”Repetitive strain injury is easy to prevent, but most people ignore symptoms and practice bad posture, Damany said.

“I want to stress the importance of catching this in schools,” Damany said. “The average age of my patients is getting lower and lower because young people tend to use computers and play video games more often. Sometimes I see kids that are 18.” Lisa LeFevre, 38, of Rifle, is an accountant at Bookkeeping To Go in Rifle. For 12 years, LeFevre has spent 8-9 hours a day at her computer, five days a week.LeFevre says she has bad posture, frequent pain in her neck and shoulders and tingling in her fingers. “I won’t go to the doctor unless the pain is unbearable,” said LeFevre. “When you work full time planning to go to the doctor is pretty difficult.”Listening to your body and learning proper computer etiquette can save many people from repetitive strain injury, Maguire said.”I would like to help at least one person in the valley who is suffering with this,” Maguire said. “It’s just so easy to prevent.”Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.com



Repetitive strain symptomsTight, sore, burning in hands, wrists, fingers, forearms or elbowsTingling/numbness in handsLoss of strength and hand coordinationFeeling a need to massage hands, wrists and armsPain in upper back, shoulders or neckProper Posture:Before typing, users should stretch to warm up arms, shoulders, back and chest.

Computer users should sit up tall, pulling their shoulders back to open the chest. They should keep their wrists in a straight line at all times, moving hands instead of fingers to make difficult key movements. Twice an hour computer users should let their arms hang down at their sides.Cost of repetitive strain injury for Dan Maguire$20,000: lost wages$2,400 to $3,600: health insurance$4,320: therapy$700: yoga$27,420 to $28,620: Total


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