Understanding RSI's

Closeup of brown eyeWrist StrappedHand about to touch a mouse make sure you dont suffer from RSI

Understanding RSI's can be a tricky business. With these injuries, nothing is as it seems and symptoms can be confusing and completely different from person to person.

The human body is designed for movement. Muscles, bones, and connective tissues are components that allow movement to happen. With every move we make, each of these parts contributes to the whole movement process.

Many people are concerned that repetitive movement is detrimental to the human body, but this is not so. The human body is designed to manage the effects of repetitive movement such as walking, running, and even chewing by the balanced use of associated muscles, bones and connective tissue.

So, what happens to create a repetitive strain injury? Notice the addition of the word "strain" to this very descriptive injury title. A repetitive strain injury forms when normal repetitive motion becomes strained for any reason. Such sources of strain include poor posture, unconscious habits that produce stress to the muscles and/or connective tissues, physical trauma, surgeries and other soft tissue injuries.

In the case of poor posture and unconscious habits, stress occurs because the body is constantly being subjected to the effects of gravity and makes accommodations when the body is not used in a balanced way. Physical trauma, surgery and other soft tissue injuries cause the body to adapt to the physical changes brought about by these events. This, in turn, causes us to use our bodies differently than originally designed. This results in the "strain" component of repetitive strain injuries.

So, how does this adaptive change in connective tissue actually happen? An analogy might be if you take a look at the cotton that comes in a pill bottle. If you notice, the cotton fibers are in a random pattern when the cotton is at rest. Once you begin pulling on the cotton, the fibers begin to line up in the direction of your pull.

The connective tissue in the human body is similar to that cotton. It is composed of ground fluid, collagen fibers, elastic fibers and either white or yellow fibers which do not stretch. When you repeatedly perform the same task over and over with strain (poor posture, unconscious habits, etc.) the fibers inside the connective tissue line up along the line of strain, just like the cotton fibers. Microscopic hydrogen bonds form between the lines of fibers to help hold them in place. This tends to fortify the affected area, protecting it somewhat from repetitive and strained overuse.

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