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Sep 24th

Repetitive Stress Injuries – Causes & Treatments

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If you’ve been sitting at your computer for more than 30 minutes, take a break before reading on…
Move your body. Shake it out. Roll your shoulders. Jiggle your legs. Breathe.
Now sit back down…

Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI’s) are the result of chronic tension that you’ve built up over years of life and making the same tiny movements in the same habitual way over and over and over.

In order to understand RSI’s, we need to understand chronic tension. Tension is constant contraction in a muscle, involuntary and impossible to “just relax”. We tense up because something we’re experiencing is too much to handle – physical pain, emotional pain, anxiety, social pressures and constraints… you get the point. When an experience is traumatic enough or constant enough (think serious injuries, family dynamics, childhood trauma) the tension response moves from a momentary coping mechanism to an unconscious survival habit.

RSI’s happen only in the areas of chronic tension because the tighter a muscle, the less flexibility it has.

Let’s try an experiment (unless you have wrist pain)…
Choose one hand and rotate it in small circles moving from the wrist; notice how that feels and how it looks. Now make a fist and repeat the rotation maintaining the fist, again notice how it feels and how it looks. Now shake it all off.

Imagine holding that fist for many years, followed by getting your dream job that requires you to circle your wrist for 40-80 hours a week, indefinitely. That sounds terrible, right?!  Sitting at the computer for long hours thinking, typing, mousing, with arms extending from compromised shoulders and neck are the equivalent of this scenario. RSI’s are the result of chronically tight muscle making the same tiny movements repetitively, slowly tearing through muscle fiber, causing inflammation and compressing nerves.

So what can you do about this?
Simply breathe deeply and recite “I am relaxed. I am light.” 10x each morning and evening.


…Just kidding! Magical thinking won’t do it, but laughter is great medicine!
Because chronic tension is an unconscious habit the only way is to unravel it from the root. There are many forms of bodywork and movement therapies designed to do just this. Here is a list of a few…

Rosen Method Bodywork
a somatic therapy that treats body and mind simultaneously, addressing muscle tension as the physical manifestation of long held attitudes, beliefs, and emotional blockages.

Ortho-Bionomy: a gentle, non-invasive, system of healing that reminds the body of its natural ability to restore balance. Its principles are based on a simple and profound philosophy: allow the body to correct itself.

Mind-Body Centeringan experiential study based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical  and developmental principles, utilizing movement, touch, voice and mind.

Vipassana Meditation: Also called insight meditation, is a Buddhist form of meditation that involves mindful body scanning. This practice leads to a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens.

Feldenkrais Method: an educational movement practice based on principles of physics, biomechanics, and an empirical understanding of learning and human development. By expanding your perception and increasing awareness, you will become more aware of your habits and tensions and develop new ways of moving.

Alexander Technique
an educational process for developing the ability to avoid unnecessary muscular tension by retraining physical movement reactions.

Somatic (Body) Psychotherapy: An integration of somatic therapies (like the ones listed above) and psychotherapies. This is a holistic model works with the whole person; body and mind, thinking, feeling, and sensing.

For short term, immediate relief of pain there are even more options. The most obvious is massage, followed by acupuncture, chiropractic, and foam rollers.

Have you had success with things not listed here? Please share!