Is this how to avoid repetitive strain injury?

Apart from the standard ways of avoiding repetitive strain injury through having the correct posture, taking breaks and using ergonomic equipment, I thought of another important component of avoiding or rehabilitating repetitive strain injury – namely the importance of strengthening the back.

The idea to strengthen the back is based on an understanding of how the body works and how injury can be caused. My idea is based on observations from my own experiences of injury. What I have noticed is that an injury can travel through the body by either spreading upwards or sideways. I came to this conclusion because I he had an injury with my left foot and not long after this my left knee was affected and then a couple of years later my right knee and then my gluteal muscles. It was as if the injury that had begun in my left foot had moved up to my left knee and then moved sideways to my right knee and then up again to my gluteal muscles. This may have been because the stresses that weren’t being dealt with effectively by my left foot were simply moving up to my left knee and because joints work in pairs since my left knee wasn’t absorbing stress effectively my right knee was then affected and finally because my knees weren’t absorbing stress effectively my gluteal muscles were affected.

So basically stresses travel through the body and if they are not being dealt with effectively they cause injury on their journey. Applying this principle to repetitive strain injury, initially fingers and then the hands, arms shoulder and back are absorbing the stresses caused not only by the impact of typing but also by sustaining a static posture. If there is a vulnerability somewhere along the route that the stress travels along then injury can occur. When you are typing or using a keyboard your arms are outstretched so they need to be supported by your back. If they are not effectively supported by your back then more stress will be absorbed by the smaller joints and tissues within the fingers and hands.

I can feel that when I am playing on my piano keyboard that sometimes within a relatively short period of time my back starts to ache a bit because it is obviously not strong or flexible enough to support my arms within this posture. It’s only a small jump of logic to see that this may make my hands vulnerable to repetitive strain. If stresses are not been absorbed by the bigger muscles contained within the back then they will have to be absorbed by the smaller and more vulnerable muscles are contained within the hands and fingers. So my conclusion is that it is very important to have a strong and flexible back if you want to avoid or rehabilitate a repetitive strain injury of the hands.

As an aside, I think these principles about how stress can be transferred from one part of the body to another can also be applied to the psychology of groups. If stress is felt by an individual or a number of people within a group then sometimes the stress can be transferred to more vulnerable members of the group.

Just going back to the body again, it also makes me wonder whether when you are trying to rehabilitate one part of your body with some strengthening exercises, it’s worth simply focusing on strengthening one part of your body. Do you not need to strengthen the whole of your body if you wish to strengthen one part of it? Because if you don’t is there not a risk that when you do the strengthening exercises, vulnerable parts of your body might take some strain and even become injured in the process? I found that when I was doing leg exercises for my knees that my back was affected adversely. Maybe there was no point in just focusing on my legs, I need to focus on strengthening the whole of my body if I want to strengthen my knees. Obviously this makes into a bigger undertaking.

Finally worked out the cause of my injuries

It’s taken me 11 years, but I’ve finally worked out the cause of most of my injuries. I started off with pain in feet because of Pes Cavus and compensated for this by using a computer more whilst sitting with my feet raised.  This led to Repetitive Strain Injury and because I wasn’t typing I tried Voice Recognition Software and started using my voice differently which then led to voice problems. When I felt like I was not making enough progress (after about 6 months), I went back to see a physio who thought that a knee problem that had developed was caused by scoliosis in my back and an accompanying leg length discrepancy.   I then tried a 2 cm shoe raise in what I was told was my shorter leg. However, I later learned that I did not have a shorter leg. Not surprisingly this increase in height of one of my legs then led to quite serious problems where I could not actually move my right leg.  To cut a long story short since then I’ve had problems with i) pain in the right side of my torso, ii) hip pain in my right leg (this has been reduced significantly by an operation performed by Damien Griffen in Coventry) pain in my left hip (only affects me if I am sitting on a soft chair or where my knees are higher than my hips), iii) problems with my right shoulder (a rotator cuff tear).

Each time I got an injury I did something to compensate for the injury and then got another one because I was suddenly increasing the load on another part of my body and thereby creating another overuse/misuse injury.

It’s quite frustrating to think that all of these problems could have been avoided through not trying to compensate for one injury by using my body differently in another way and by not properly resting injuries.