RSI, Cumulative Trauma Disorders, Occupational Overuse Injuries, Work Related Upper Limb Disorders, back pain, neck pain... These common conditions encompass many different injuries. These conditions arise for many reasons; as bodyworkers, you are either at risk or already suffering because of the demands you place on our body during every treatment. And it isn't all musculo-skeletally related.
Where to start?
The risks stem from issues as simple as posture, rest, and exercise. Poor posture throws off the body's balance and makes the wrong muscle groups work in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons. This leads to the obvious back and neck pain. However, poor posture hinders breathing and the nerves and blood vessels running into the arms, making the arms susceptible to the various conditions named above. The lack of rest from a demanding schedule or client load, especially working with poor posture, as well as use of excessive force to appease the pressure-loving client almost guarantees trouble. Even the stress of a large workload, especially if you are not the one in control of your schedule, contributes to these disorders. Simply performing over two hours of repetitive hand movement per day is enough to put a therapist into the risk category, but what therapist does not identify with at least half of the other risk factors mentioned here?
What are the warning signs?
Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness, or burning in hands, wrists, fingers, neck, or back; tingling, coldness, or numbness, or a feeling of heaviness in the limbs or head; clumsiness or lack of coordination or control; pain that wakes you up at night - especially in the early morning hours; frequent need to self-massage; pain. Of course, these conditions aren't always painful. Those famous therapist 'clicky wrists' are a sign of trouble.
What to do if you have symptoms:
If you do not yet have symptoms, pay close attention to the information and techniques in this course. It is far easier to prevent these disorders than cure them once contracted. However, if you have the symptoms listed regularly when working, or as results of your work, RUN, DO NOT WALK, to a health care provider right away. Early treatment is critical to limiting damage, trouble, and frustration. THIS IS NOT EXAGGERATION; by the time you have symptoms there has already been damage done. Ignoring pain once it arrives may result in serious injury. But all is not lost. Although there are no quick fixes, changes in techniques and work habits can allow healing to happen. Increased awareness of your posture and work habits is necessary to enable you to work safely and avoid further problems. That's where IPM comes in.