I have been running more and more over the last three years for fitness purposes as well as for the prevention of middle age weight creep. It has been an interesting journey and one that forces you to analyse a lot of your associated aches and pains on a continual basis. Firstly, you try to identify and resolve them before they can manifest themselves into something more sinister and become a long term injury.
Running, especially longer distance road running, is a very repetitive exercise, with the same cadence, same stride and same motion again and again. This repetitive motion often leads to localised tight spots (knots) in the muscles that are doing all the repetitive work. I have found very sore tight muscle ‘knots’ in the calves, quads, hamstrings, and gluteal region. These points can be very painful in themselves or can refer pain to other areas. This can often curtail running activity until they are addressed. Addressing muscle ‘knots’ is done via massage. Self massage can be done, and quite often it is useful to target certain areas with a foam roller or in the case of the hamstring by sitting down whilst laying the hamstring on top of a lacrosse ball with the leg extended. Usually massage treatment can sort the tight spot very quickly and allow me to go back and run again within 24 to 48 hours.
The reason that I bring the running example into the discussion is that running as a repetitive motion can be used as an analogy for daily keyboard or mouse use, which involves constant repetitive motions of the hands and forearms for hours at a time. We are letting our hands and forearms do the equivalent of a long distance run every day, producing the same type of muscle knots in the forearm that runners experience in their legs. The muscle knots in the forearms then refer the pain via the tight tendons down into the hands and fingers causing the referred pain that we are all familiar with and call RSI. It is only through awareness, self treatment and education that we can learn how to prevent RSI from becoming a long term, debilitating problem.