Do any of you remember the Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times? It’s the story of a factory worker who is forced to test a new piece of equipment (essentially the conveyor belt,) and since he spends all his time doing the same thing over and over and over again, he slowly has a nervous breakdown and gets sent to the insane asylum.
That was actually a real problem back in the days where we used to make things here. Labor Unions actually helped to provide factory workers with decent salaries, and that helped alleviate things somewhat, but the fact remained that people spent hours essentially doing the same thing over and over and over again.
Almost every blue collar town had an enormous amount of guys with bad backs and trick knees. If you lived in a town with a lot of assembly line work, there were more men of working age who were limping than weren’t. And aside from the physical problems, repetitive physical labor also had a tendency to aggravate the psyche of workers (as illustrated by Mr. Chaplin.)
These twinges and aches and pains are called “repetitive stress injuries.” These are different than an injury that happens all at once. These are aches and pains and strains that build up over time, often by using one particular part of your body to do the same thing over and over again. Sometimes people with repetitive stress injuries sort of become used to them, and don’t even view them as something that needs to be treated, and that’s when they lead to even more severe injuries and conditions.
There might not be a lot of manufacturing jobs left in the United States, particularly in the DC area. But there are still a lot of repetitive stress injuries cropping up. The repetitive stress injuries we see these days have a tendency to be micro rather than macro. For instance, a conveyor belt worker at a Chrysler plant in 1979 would have repetitive stress injuries in his knees, wrists, and back. Nowadays, we see repetitive stress injuries that reflect the work that people are doing now. Graphic designers get wrist and finger strains from operating a mouse 8 to 10 hours a day. Everyone gets sore thumbs from sending a million texts and posting 100 tweets every day. People get severe headaches from staring at screens all day, or their necks and backs are sore from hunching over their PC’s at work.
You might be thinking that this sort of thing is no big deal, and you would be wrong. In the first place, any strain or injury should be treated. Also, not treating a strain or injury will not only make the injury worse, but will probably lead to other injuries. If my wrist starts to constantly hurt due to working my mouse, I will start to favor that wrist, and perhaps start using the muscles in my forearm to work the mouse instead. My forearm is now being used over and over again in ways that it isn’t used to, so now it’s starting to hurt as well. So in not treating the initial problem, I’ve given myself two problem areas for the price of one.
So what to do regarding those aches and pains in your fingers and wrists that seem unavoidable if you want to make a living? Do you just “muscle through it,” in the hopes that it will magically get better on its own?
Of course not.
Massage and acupuncture are two great ways to help treat your repetitive stress injuries. Both are effective at relieving pain from using the same muscle group in the same constricted and limited ways over and over again, and both are effective at relaxing those muscle groups so they are under less stress and strain. So in terms of helping with repetitive stress injuries, acupuncture and massage can both prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Here’s our recommendation: First, if you are coming in here on a regular basis for massage or acupuncture, and your job involves repetitive motion, let your practitioner know. Tell them specifically what you do, and more importantly, tell them how you do it. They can not only treat those muscle groups, but can also give you some ideas as to how to conserve those muscle groups while you work. It’s preventive maintenance at its finest.
Your way of earning a living doesn’t have to wreck your health and comfort. Come see us as soon as you can, tell us about your work, and let us set a course of treatment for you.