Repetitive Muscle Stress

Repetitive Muscle Stress, or RMS for short, is turning out to be a major problem of the 1990’s and 2000’s. This is being triggered by the rapidly increasing computer keyboard usage, causing such problems as numb fingers, painfully stiff wrists, which is often diagnosed as “carpal tunnel syndrome”, stiff and sore shoulders, back, etc.

Another common term used for these conditions is Repetitive Stress Injury or RSI. We prefer to use the term Repetitive Muscle Stress or RMS because it focuses on the underlying causative factor rather than on the symptoms.

Actually RMS has been around for a long time. Ask the beauticians who cannot hold their arms up at the end of the day or comb their own hair or brush their teeth. Or ask the grocery checkout clerk who cannot put on a pullover sweater. Or ask the meat and poultry packers who find themselves in such pain that they are unable to continue working and find themselves on disability or unemployment. Or ask the dentist who works limited or half days because his arms and wrists go weak when he works for too long. The list goes on and on.

Most efforts to reduce the effects of RMS center on reducing the repetitive activity impact. These efforts include “optimal” workstation design, braces and splints, frequent rest periods, and job rotation. They all help to reduce RMS but often at a cost of significant loss in productivity.

However, the bottom line is restoring the loss of muscle balance and strength triggered by the repetitive activities. Major factors in RMS are Reactive and Frozen-hypertonic Muscles.

In typical repetitive activities certain muscles soon tire. As the activity is continued the muscle tone, or energy level, is altered to compensate. As a result, more and more reactive muscle interactions are set up. A reactive muscle is a muscle that weakens, when another muscle is activated. Often the person has the feeling of getting weaker and weaker as they continue to attempt to perform an activity, while other parts of their body tighten up.

In the case of stiff or painful wrists, with the degradation of the muscle balance in the arms due to the repetitive activity, the wrist structure, including the carpal tunnel, is no longer properly supported by the musculature, and the integrity of the carpal tunnel collapses resulting in irritation of the nerves and tendons passing through it.

Correcting the muscle imbalances immediately relieves the stress on the wrist structure, allowing it to return to normal. Typically much of the pain and stiffness disappears almost immediately. The rest of the pain and stiffness usually disappear in 12 to 24 hours as the injured tissues quickly heal once the stress is removed.

We have been helping people with RMS for over 30 years. The do-it-yourself aspect of our Basic Balance exercises makes it possible for workers to do this exercise on the job without the assistance of a muscle-balancing therapist. The exercises can be done beforehand, or on the job, or afterwards.

RMS is also a factor in many athletic activities. We have seen these balancing exercises improve basketball, golf, hiking, and aerobic exercise performance and would expect significant improvement in most other athletic and dance activities.

Performing these balancing exercises will help those with RMS, whether from work or sports, manage the pain and stiffness without the need of medication. The quick results will have them working or playing in no time.