What is the best way to rest mentally? Is it just to let one’s mind drift? This is a subject that has been investigated by the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging scanners they found that there was less brain activity when subjects were focusing on a mental task than when they were simply letting their mind drift. A mind that is unfocused may also be more likely to experience negative thinking, worrying feelings of social isolation which put more stress onto the brain.
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.