Repetitive stress injuries – or chronic pain of a frequently or unnaturally used area such as the spine, shoulder, knee, or other joints – may not rank as high on the pain scale as trauma from a car accident. However, chronic pain can affect everyday life in multiple facets, ranging from your body’s range of motion, to your job performance, to your personal comfort level.
In some cases, intervention such as surgery may be required to address pain or discomfort. However, for other cases, physical therapy is a potential treatment plan. A properly prescribed and followed PT program can help reduce pain and strategically strengthen a stressed area against future soreness.
In review, PT programs helps patients reduce pain, improve mobility, increase flexibility, and overall improve quality of life. The benefits of PT are broad and include:
Restoring strength and day-to-day function after injury or surgery
Improving overall function, flexibility, or balance
Maintaining a healed injury to prevent re-injury
Preventing disability or surgery
Relieving chronic pain
Rehabilitation after stroke or catastrophic injury
Managing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or others
Adapting to artificial limbs or assistive devices such as canes or walkers
Let’s outline how a proper PT program can help common repetitive-stress injury patients.
Sitting is the New Smoking
Any job or lifestyle that requires any amount of sitting puts the patient at risk for frequent soreness from the neck down. To grasp why, picture for a moment the posture of a typical office worker:
Sitting for hours on end, sometimes with legs crossed or uncrossed, arms and shoulders slightly elevated to situate hands on a keyboard, and neck lowered or raised to level eyes on a screen. In contrast to standing or walking, weight is distributed mainly on the seated portions of the body. Any tilt or slouch in posture can place stress on parts of the body not adapted to bearing such weight for long periods of time. With arms pulled upwards instead of naturally at the sides, shoulder muscles remain tense throughout the workday. Wrists, hands, and fingers tap away at a mouse and keyboard. In other words, sitting is unnatural to the human body, and the seeds for repetitive-stress injury are sown.
What Physical Therapy Can Do For Repetitive-Stress Injury
While a routine exercise program can help offset some of the negative effects of sitting, for patients whose profession, lifestyle, or even a current injury leaves them sitting for hours on end, PT can fill in the gaps or target particularly stressed areas.
For example, a program may include stretching muscles that are otherwise left in a contracted, or “shortened” state when sitting. (For example, muscles in the calf or such as the hamstring are frequently stretched while walking or running, but remain inert in a seated position.)
For patients that experience back or hip discomfort, exercises that allow you to stretch and safely strengthen those stressed areas can help manage current pain levels, and fortify problem areas against pain in the future.
Finally, PT does the best thing for sitting down: Gets the patient up. Time spent away from a chair is beneficial. So instead of a quick break for coffee or a snack, consider snagging a space and completing a few exercises. Completing them before or after work daily can also greatly benefit a sedentary patient.
Patients who feel the physical strain of their day-to-day routines do not need to be left out of physical therapy’s potential benefits. Altogether, PT as prescribed by a certified medical professional is a safe and recommended curriculum of recovery. If you feel you may benefit from physical therapy after an injury and would like to know more, contact your physician today to discuss your local care options.