The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


After a long day at work, my arms hurt. Why?

Repetitive stress injuries of the arms (or RSIís) are caused by overuse. They vary in type and severity. Most are related to repetitive activities at work or in sports. They may occur, for example, from using a computer keyboard or from using hand tools. Normally, the body can recover from one or two minor injuries. With repeated minor injuries, however, the joints, tendons, and muscles donít have time to recover. With time they become inflamed and painful. Edema fluid accumulates in the injured area, which causes swelling and tenderness.

Since athletes are prone to repetitive-use injuries, some of these problems (like tennis elbow or golferís elbow) are named after sports. The same injuries can occur in non-athletes. Tennis elbow and golferís elbow both commonly result from work injuries. Some spine problems can also be caused by overuse. Neck pain, which results from cradling the telephone on the shoulder, is one example. Back pain from prolonged sitting is another.

Rest, or changes in the way you work or play, may fix these problems. An ergonomist can help rearrange your workstations to make injury less likely. If that doesnít end the pain, medical care may be needed. An accurate diagnosis is essential. EMG studies, for example, may be needed to exclude problems such as the carpal tunnel syndrome.

For repetitive stress injuries that donít improve with rest, nonsteroidal medications and physical therapy can help. Pain blocks may be needed. If symptoms persist, surgery may be helpful.



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Last modified: 07/27/08