You’ll inevitably bend, twist, turn, stretch, and make other similar motions on a fairly consistent basis as you go about your normal daily life. You may perform these actions more frequently if you need to repeat certain movements while you work, enjoy a favorite pastime, or do your regular exercise routine. However, your spine can be affected over time by repetitive motion injuries related to your various movements. Here’s how this can happen and what you can do about it.
What’s referred to as a repetitive motion injury, or RMI, is a type of injury that occurs when too much stress is placed on one area of the spine or on supporting muscle groups or soft tissues. The added stress and pressure can cause an injury due to inflammation or structural damage that accelerates wear.
When you think of repetitive motion injuries, overdoing it at the gym or performing labor-intensive work may come to mind. Granted, more physical activities can cause RMIs. However, you could also sustain this type of injury when you engage in less strenuous activities. For instance, RMIs can also be caused by sitting for several hours at a time while doing office work. In addition, bending, twisting, and the other motions mentioned above can also affect your spine enough to result in painful or distracting injuries.
Ideally, you want to take steps to prevent RMIs in the first place. This is something you can do by bending at the knees instead of the waist when you lift objects, changing your body position as often as possible, watching your posture as you sit and stand, not excessively leaning or slouching, and taking breaks to move, stretch, and briefly rest if you suddenly notice spine-related pain.
If you’re already experiencing symptoms likely related to a repetitive motion injury, you may be advised to:
• Rest first before shifting to a controlled exercise routine
• Explore various physical therapy options
• Take anti-inflammatory medication
• Use an ergonomically designed chair
• Learn more about posture awareness
• Try hot/cold therapy
• Use harnesses, braces, and other protective devices/equipment
Many patients with RMIs respond well to the treatments mentioned above along with lifestyle adjustments. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, surgery may be recommended to treat the root cause of the problem, such as a herniated disc or a compressed or irritated nerve. For example, if you have a herniated disc, your spine specialist may recommend a surgical option such as a total disc replacement. Santa Monica patients should understand the goal with surgery is to stabilize the affected area and prevent excessive movement or pressure on nearby structures.
Having spine-related aches and pains doesn’t necessarily mean you have a repetitive motion injury. That said, don’t ignore any lingering discomfort around your spine. It’s best to get a diagnosis as soon as possible from your doctor or a spine specialist so you can receive specific advice and a customized treatment plan.
You can reduce your risk of repetitive motion injuries by taking the precautions listed above. If you do experience this type of injury and your pain has become severe, speak with a Santa Monica spine surgeon. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert physicians at The Spine Institute can help you find an effective solution for pain relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to learn more.