Calming stress injuries
Understanding RSI: If you’re getting aches and pains — especially a prickly feeling (pins and needles) or loss of strength or sensation in a hand, arm or shoulder and your symptoms feel better when you’re resting, then you could be a victim of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI).
This is a condition caused by placing too much stress on a joint, and it varies in type and severity. Mostly, RSI is linked to the stress of repetitive motions while using a computer or overuse injuries commonly seen in sportspersons. RSI may also occur in kids who are hooked to computer or video games, or because of the repetitive motions of their joints while playing musical instruments or sports like tennis and badminton.
RSI usually affects the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand or a combination of these areas, leading either to impairment or reduction in movement of the affected joint/s or giving rise to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, frozen shoulder and tennis elbow. RSI may be caused by overuse or strain of certain muscles/tendons, mostly due to short, cyclic, continuous and repetitive movements.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition occurring with pain, weakness, tingling sensation and other symptoms of discomfort in the hand. It is mainly caused due to the pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
Frozen shoulder causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Over time, the shoulder becomes very hard to move. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and occurs in women more often than men.
Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in the elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Despite its name, only a small group of people diagnosed with tennis elbow actually get it from playing tennis! Usually plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers are affected by this condition as an occupational hazard.
You can help prevent RSI by taking preventive measures and redesigning your home / office computer environment, by making sure your computer, desk and chair are correctly set up at work.
When the symptoms are mild you can manage them at home:
- Provide good rest to your affected joints in between activities
- Stop any activity that causes numbness and pain
- Soothe the joint/s with ice packs for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours
- If pain is severe, painkillers may be taken for symptomatic relief
- Wearing a wrist splint at night will be helpful in patients with CTS. But don’t continue any of the above if the symptoms worsen.
There are also some natural remedies that you could try for symptomatic relief: A soothing massage using medicated oils daily and taking a relaxing warm water shower will usually help in relieving aches, pain and numbness. If it is not feasible daily, this routine should be followed at least twice a week.
Using either hot or cold compresses (such as a hot water bag or an ice pack), applied for just a few minutes to an inflamed joint, may help reduce swelling.
Potent herbal oils like Mahanarayana taila/ Prasarini taila (of any well-known Ayurvedic pharmacy) may be used for local application on the affected part, followed by gentle massage for about 10-15 minutes twice daily and gentle movements of the affected joint/s for a couple of minutes — this will help to mitigate the effects of RSI. This can be followed by fomentation by pouring hot water on the affected joint/s or using a hot water pad/bag for local fomentation. Avoid vigorous massage.
If you find using oil a cumbersome process, you may opt for creams, ointments or liniments instead. Those preparations that contain potent anti-inflammatory herbs help reduce swelling and pain. Rumalaya gel/liniment (Himalaya), Muscle & Joint rub (Himalaya), Myostaal (Solumiks) are effective.
The combination of any of the following medicines will be useful in reducing symptoms: Prasaranyadi Kashayam / Gandharvahastadi Kashayam/Maharasnadi Kashayam — 2 teaspoons with 6 teaspoons of boiled and cooled water, twice daily, before meals
Ksheerabala taila 101 avarti/Maharajaprasarani taila/Gandha Taila (any reputed Ayurveda manufacturer) — 10 drops, twice daily in warm water / milk, before meals (or Ksheerabala 101 capsules/Maharajaprasarani tailam capsules/Gandha tailam capsules — 2 capsules twice daily, before meals)
Rumalaya forte tablets/Shallaki tablets (both from Himalaya) — 2 tablets, twice daily, after meals.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 17 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company