Proposed new Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards would require employers to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and back pain. Musculoskeletal problems have been identified as the most expensive and preventable work-related disorders on the job site. Opposed by some business leaders and praised by labor leaders, the regulations call for identification of ergonomic hazards and correction of any injury-causing conditions.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome should try their hand at yoga. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, yoga beat out wrist splints for reducing pain and strengthening hands. In the two-month study reported in Health (April 1999) a group of 22 subjects practicing upper body yoga postures twice weekly showed significant improvement in their condition as compared to a group using only wrist splints.
The last installments of “Redesigning Movement” focused on gaining flexibility in specific regions of the body. We drew attention to the postural and biomechanical issues that most massage therapists and bodyworkers face. A full head-to-toe routine of active-isolated stretching was explained as a means to prevent repetitive stress injuries that are brought on by the nature of our work and through dysfunctional biomechanics.
Some time back I received a request from a reader to cover treatments for violinists. Although violin-playing is not a sport, these clients are athletes — each day undergoing continuous use of their upper extremities, especially the hands. Let’s cover some of the common dysfunctions seen in violinists, as well as preventive treatments to help keep these athletes’ upper extremities in good shape. We will start with the condition I’ve seen afflict quite a few professional and amateur violinists — Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
With the widespread use of computers, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries (CTS/RSI) are quickly becoming the leading cause of workplace absenteeism in the United States. But computer operators are not the only ones affected with these maladies. Cashiers, hairdressers, massage therapists and countless other professionals can be seen wearing wrist braces in the line of duty. Allopathic medicine treats these conditions with anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections and ultimately surgery.
Adding salt to already existing wounds (literally), the House, the Senate and President Bush all voted in March to repeal former-President Clinton’s ergonomic regulations that specifically addressed repetitive stress injury and debilitating ergonomic injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome) affecting nearly 1 million Americans. Former-President Clinton’s ergonomic standard, issued in November 2000, would have protected as many as 500,000 work-related injuries per year and would have covered more than 100 million workers.
Colleen entered massage school with all the hopes and dreams of someone searching for the perfect, mid-life career change. She simply wanted to help people, while making a decent living in the process. Little did she know the repetitive use injury she would fall victim to began early in her training — while she was still attending massage school. Unfortunately, as a new massage therapist, Colleen could help her clients’ pain, but she didn’t have the knowledge necessary to remain pain-free herself.
On a daily basis, massage therapists across the country assist their clients in the prevention of, and recovery from, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and related repetitive stress injuries (RSI). Let’s take a look at the anatomy and biomechanics of CTS and related syndromes, and through our understanding of the structural and behavioral origins of this disorder, find ways to prevent it from “impinging” on your own body.