Repetitive Stress Injuries

What is causing that aching and burning in my hand or wrist, and what can I do to prevent and heal it?

Like any other delicate instruments, your wrists, hands and fingers can suffer from overuse. Typing on a keyboard, sports, hobbies and other repetitive activities can all contribute to aches and pains that make it difficult to do your job or even complete simple daily tasks.

A repetitive strain injury, or RSI, is a gradual buildup of damage to tendons, muscles and nerves as a result of repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities, including too much time typing or tapping your phone. Prolonged exposure to cold and vibration can be aggravating to your hands, so a construction worker who uses power tools every day or someone who works outside in the winter may be more likely to experience RSI.

If you are suffering from RSI symptoms that are affecting your everyday activities, give your healthcare provider a “thumbs up” for an evaluation so you can get the treatment you need to get back to doing the things you love.

Common RSI Symptoms:

· Burning, aching or shooting pain

· Tremors, clumsiness and numbness

· Fatigue or a lack of strength

· Weakness in the hands or forearms

· Difficulty with everyday activities, e.g., opening doors, chopping vegetables, turning on a tap

· Chronically cold hands, particularly the fingertips

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Also known as CTS, carpal tunnel syndrome is the name for a group of problems that includes swelling, pain, tingling, and loss of strength in your wrist and hand. It is caused by compression on the median nerve in the wrist, which is responsible for feeling and movement in the hand. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness and a feeling that your hands are falling asleep in the middle of the night, which is often the first symptom.

Risk Factors that Can Increase chances of Developing CTS:

· Genetic predisposition

· Repetitive movements

· Injury or trauma

· Pregnancy

· Menopause

· Breast cancer

· Medical conditions including diabetes, hypothyroidism, lupus, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis

Smokers with CTS usually have worse symptoms and recover more slowly than non-smokers.

CTS Treatment

If you are showing symptoms of CTS, it’s important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to avoid permanent damage to the wrist nerve and muscles of the hand and thumb. Treatments vary from splints, rest, medication, physical therapy and surgery.

CTS Prevention Tips:

· Pay attention to your workspace. Make sure your equipment is at the right height and distance. Maintain good posture and wrist position.

· Take 10-15-minute breaks every hour to decrease your risk of swelling and to allow your hand and wrist to rest and recover.

· Avoid repetitive movements and vary tasks between those that require repetitive wrist and hand motion with those that do not.

· Concentrate on doing hand and wrist motion tasks more gently.

· After doing repetitive movements, flex and bend your wrists and hands in the opposite direction.

· Stay warm. Muscles that are warm are less likely to get damaged.

If pain or numbness in your wrists, hands or fingers is limiting your activity, don’t wait until the symptoms are severe. Make an appointment with our Lovelace Medical Group orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremities by calling 505.727.4430. For more information, visit