Chronic Tissue Damage, Pain and Weakness–What can you do?
Monday, October 6, 2008 17:40
If you have regular painful flare-ups, or you know someone who does, here’s a new word you’ll want in your RSI vocabulary — tendinosis. It’s an important concept to understand, even if you forget the word itself right away.
You’re probably familiar with tendonitis (or tendinitis), a common term meaning inflammation in the tendons. Most often it occurs in your elbow or shoulder ankle or other key joint area, where tendons join the bone and muscle. Tendonitis isn’t really a diagnosis since it can refer to anywhere in the body, but it does tell you something about what’s going on. It happens with an acute injury, but sometimes lasts for quite a while.
Now, the inflammation that comes with tendonitis is designed to help you, to provide some shielding and padding to an injured area, to prevent further damage and give the area time to heal. Yet if you’re constantly re-injuring yourself by continuing to work through the pain, the acute tendonitis might go away. That is, the inflammation might die down again, but the soft tissue may still be damaged.
This is tendinosis: no more inflammation, but the permanent tissue damage can still continue to cause pain and weakness in the tendons. If you’ve suffered for months or years, this is probably the case — your muscles, tendons or joints have gone through an acute phase of injury, then moved on to a chronic problem. Scar tissue builds up and reduces your range of motion even further, and chronic weakness can make you more and more weak, and lead to other problems.
Then, other muscles have to compensate for the injured areas, but they may also grow weak because they are being strained and overused, and you can injure yourself in other areas too. Now you have a systemic, or body-wide problem, rather than a small temporary injury.
All this is pretty troubling, but luckily, there’s good news. First, whether or not you’re still in pain, if you think you have scar tissue that has built up and restricts your range of motion, and if you are still weak, you will need some sort of therapy to improve. You need to regain your strength, your range of motion and your flexibility. Here are some treatments that can help:
Massage — breaks up scar tissue, helps restore circulation and range of motion. Massage can help transform dysfunctional and injured tissues into healthy tendons and muscles again.
Stretching — If you have scar tissue built up over time, it’s inevitable you’ll lose some range of motion. Scar tissue basically forms a living brace of criss-crossed tissue over otherwise smooth tissues. This makes the area stronger, but means you’ll have less flexibility. Gentle stretching, along with massage, can help restore some of that range of motion. This will also bring new circulation to the area, providing nutrients, which will also help heal the disfigured tissues.
Strength training — Strained, stressed and injured muscles grow weakened and debilitated. Once you’ve overcome the pain and acute injury, it’s important to restore the functions of those injured tissues by carefully training the adjacent muscles to bear weight again. This includes both the small muscles of arms or hands, and the larger muscles of your shoulders and back. If you’re hesitant and afraid to hurt yourself, work with a sports trainer or physical therapist to develop a routine specific to your needs. Weight training is also important in keeping your bones strong as you grow older, preventing osteoperosis and broken bones later in life.
Stay healthy while you’re young and you still have the opportunity:)