There’s no doubt that technology has been a huge boon for many people. But, there are downsides to technology as well, particularly for those who work with devices such as computers and tablets every day. Repetitive use injuries and other conditions that lead to chronic pain are increasingly common and cause a variety of symptoms that can take a toll.
Common Workplace Issues
1. Carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome: These are two issues that people in an office setting may face and, with these conditions, come a variety of symptoms that massage therapy can help relieve pain being but one. “Pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness in the affected areas are the most common symptoms of these injuries,” explains Deborah Kimmet, a massage therapist and educator from Missoula, Montana.
2.Poor posture: Can be the cause of painful conditions affecting the neck, shoulders and back. “For example, a forward head posture can lead to neck pain as the person unconsciously reaches forward with the head to better see the screen,” she says. Additionally, improper posture can sometimes be the result of other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.
How can Massage help?
Massage therapy is proving beneficial in helping clients with chronic pain find relief—and some of these conditions are no different.
1.“Massage therapy can help reduce postural imbalances, nerve entrapment, inflammation in the tissues, and trigger points and their referrals,” Kimmet says.
2.“In addition, massage therapy can address the symptoms caused by nerve compression if the nerve compression is due to improper posture.”
3. Massage therapy being beneficial for clients who may have a hemipelvis imbalance that might cause back discomfort and pain, or those whose forward head posture is contributing to neck and upper back pain. “A shortening of the anterior musculature in the abdomen and chest that causes back pain can also benefit from massage,” Kimmet adds, “as can shortened pronators of the forearms that might be causing forearm, wrist and hand pain.”
Important Reminders for Massage Therapists
1. Before beginning a massage therapy session, however, you need to be sure you understand the mechanics of your client’s pain. “Assess postural imbalances to guide your treatment,” explains Kimmet. “Then, treat the tissues determined by the postural assessment and those specific to the overuse syndrome diagnosed by the client’s physician, for example.”
2. When treating the soft tissue, Kimmet suggests starting by warming up the tissue with five minutes of heat and then doing some myofascial work and stripping the area with four or five long strokes. “Then, go somewhere else,” she says.
3. If the area is extremely tender, Kimmet encourages massage therapists to go back and repeat the longer strokes. “You can end by doing specific trigger point work and movement education to add more release to the tissues,” she adds.
Kimmet is quick to remind massage therapists, however, that knowing when not to work on an area is just as important as knowing when massage therapy might help.
“If the client has cubital tunnel syndrome or is postoperative for the condition, stay away from the elbow because you run the risk of irritating the nerve even more,” she says.
Additionally, remember that massage therapy is not going to cure the problem, even as the work helps relieve symptoms. “The crux of the issue is overuse,” Kimmet explains. “No matter what the massage therapist recommends or does, unless the client can find a different way to do what they are doing, the problem will return. Discussion with a client to help them find a way to do certain tasks can be helpful. As part of the session, I will include movements that help release and retrain the affected musculature. And, I teach the movements to the client so they can do them on their own, as well as a simple method of finding a comfortable sitting posture.”
Want more great information on helping clients and yourself with problems related to repetitive use injuries ? Read the full article in AMTA's Massage Therapy Journal.