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Are our children at greater risk for Repetitive Strain Injuries?

How many of us had game boys, X boxes, computers, cells phones with texting, or laptops when we were kids??  Remember when people started getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrone?  How many of you have heard of Repetitive Strain Injuries?  Did you ever wonder how big the muscles of your thumb is??   I was thinking the other day of all the tiny muscle movements our children are now exposed to vs. when we were kids.  Texting and game boys, computers and laptops give our fingers more stress and activity than what they were designed for.   I wonder, with all this use our children’s fingers and thumbs are getting, what their hands will be like when they are 30 or 40?

Not only are our muscles getting over worked, but the other problem with sitting at the computer, laptop, or game boy is the posture that our spine assumes.  When we sit in a slumped position with our arms together in front of our bodies, this produces a compression or closing of the front of our body.  Our ribs move closer together, our lungs become compressed, and even the large arteries and veins entering and leaving our heart become shorter instead of longer.  If we sustain these positions for long periods over time muscles, nerves, and connective tissues shorten, and this can have negative affects on the workings of our organ systems.  Did you ever think you could sustain an injury from just sitting all day??   I have treated many people with numbness and tingling in their arms and hands, not from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but from Repetitive Strain Injuries.  These develop when people spent too much time sitting in front of the computer without taking breaks and their nerves actually become shortened or tight, just like muscles do.

So, how do we manage all this new technology with our kids?  We teach them at an early age about taking breaks and stretching.  Remember that old saying about too much of a good thing is never good?  That applies here as well.  We should help our kids find the balance.  Go ahead, sit with the game boy or at the computer, but stand up every 30-60 minutes and stretch.  Bend backwards 10x, reach with your arms overhead and out to the side.  Think about opening up your chest and move your arms out and behind your body.  Bend backwards.  For the hands, we can stretch them by GENTLY bending the fingers and thumb backwards, again, opening up the hand in the opposite position from that of typing or texting.  For the forearms, after long periods of typing, it feels good and is so important to stretch the palm side of your forearm.  Do this by holding your arm straight out in front of your body, turn your palm up then bend your wrist back so that your fingers are pointing down to the floor.  Again GENTLY push against your palm so you feel a pulling in the forearm.  The opposite stretch of this one is with your arm out in front, palm facing down, again bending at the wrist with fingers pointing to the floor, this time pushing against the back of your hand to feel the stretch on the top of your forearm.  Hold each stretch 30-60 seconds, repeat 5 times.

Our bodies are really designed for movement.  Try to remember how active and physical our ancestors were.  If we remember to stretch and move hopefully we can avoid injury!            Mary Boyd, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached at 290-5575.

Too Afraid to be Treated??

As I was treating one of my patients last week who was telling me that her boyfriend had a really bad neck, had been suffering for years and really needed to see me.  A few days later she came back and told me her boyfriend was too afraid to come in.  He was worried that the treatment would hurt, or make him worse.  I guess I’m just a wimp because when I’m in pain I just want to get rid of it!   I’m always amazed when new patients come in for an evaluation and treatment and tell me that they’d been in pain for years.  Some people have told me that they thought it would get better, they were too busy to come in while others have just told me they were too lazy!!

I don’t blame people who are afraid, we are all afraid of the unknown.  Most people don’t know what a Physical Therapist, Rolfer or Massage Therapist is really going to do to them!    I won’t deny that my patients often complain that the treatments hurt, soft tissue injuries often require muscle release techniques that are painful and stiff joints need to be mobilized, but I am constantly talking to the people on my table and asking if it’s too much.  The patient is always in control of what I do.  Most of my patients realize that the muscle pain during treatment is temporary and that they will feel looser and less painful the next day.  It’s also not 60 minutes of pain.  Patients come in, we discuss how they are feeling, how they responded to the last treatment, did it help or not.  I may do one technique for 5 minutes then switch to something different, taking breaks in between.

Any skilled body worker also has to become very good at reading people, and the tricky part is that all people are different.  People have differing perceptions in pain.  Some have a low pain threshold while others really want deep work.  I learned early on to beware of the 6’4″ man who bragged about his “high pain threshold”!  Also, some people are very stoic.  They may use words like, “uncomfortable” or “sore” when others might use words like, “it’s killing me”.  This is really tricky business often taking several treatments just to figure out how to communicate with this patient so they don’t let me do too much.  I also treated a young woman from Texas who was in SEVERE chronic pain but would come in with a big smile and tell me everything was fabulous.  It took me a couple treatments to realize this was a big facade.  She’d been raised to always put on a happy face!!  I would have to repeat myself three times, “ how are you, REALLY!!” before I’d get an honest answer out of her.

Please remember that those of us that do hands on work are doing so for you and your best interest.  We have devoted our lives to helping others.  It is our intent to help people feel better, not worse.  So if you are in pain and you want to seek treatment, do your homework first and find the most skilled practitioner to meet your needs.  Then be honest with them, tell them about your concerns that the treatment might hurt.  I always try to err on the side of caution, it’s always easier to do more on the second treatment then to backpedal after flaring someone up.  And remember, if someone is doing something you don’t like, don’t understand or hurts, speak up.  Question them about what they are doing and if need be, tell them to stop.  We all have one body, and we know it better than anyone else!

Mary Boyd, MS, PT owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy can be reached at 290-5575.

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