FMP recently had a patient, a 32-year-old female who had the adrenaline rush to do some quad biking in Phan Thiet, Vietnam. The white sand dunes were refreshing after Hanoi but what resulted was a really painful injury to her shoulder. She began to feel pain in the front of her shoulder a few days later that gradually radiated down the side of her arm. She was finding sleep painful and began to get a slight weakness in her arm. For the first week she was taking painkillers but was having difficulty with routine activities such as combing her hair and reaching behind her back to do up her dress. What happened one day at work was a snapping sensation in her shoulder and then immediate weakness in her arm.
She came to FMP and was seen by a doctor who was able to diagnose a rotator cuff tear; when this tear occurs, there is frequently weakening of the muscles around the arm and decreased range of motion of the shoulder. Fortunately surgery wasn’t necessary this time on the tendon, but the muscles around the arm remained weak. Rehabilitation plays a critical role in the non-surgical treatment of a rotator cuff tear, so the doctor was able to advise a physical therapy program to regain strength and improve functioning in her shoulder.
With some detailed history-taking, the physiotherapist was able to find out the patient had a history of high-energy sports activities combined with a desk job which left her sitting in a relatively fixed position for long periods of time trying to meet deadlines. She explained sometimes she experienced aches and pains in her neck, shoulder, wrist and elbow joints that indicated the onset of repetitive strain injury (RSI). This type of injury can result in damage to tendons, muscles, nerves and soft tissues from repeated physical movements over time.
Expats are found to be sitting for long periods of time at their computers in relatively fixed positions, performing repetitive movements while trying to meet deadlines. Aches and pains can be felt in the neck, shoulder, upper and lower back, wrist and elbow joints; the nerves in the hand for example become compressed, causing weakness and/or tingling in the finger.
Make sure you don’t neglect the importance of posture as you sit down — posture can have an effect on home and sporting life, causing long-term damage that will haunt you in later years.
Don’t wait for the pain or swelling to subside before making an appointment. Taking painkillers long-term is not a remedy; you may inadvertently be doing something that is making the problem worse than better. The sooner you see a doctor and physiotherapist the quicker a treatment program can be started which will minimize the amount of time you have to miss your adrenaline fix.
Laurel Winter graduated from The University of Newcastle, Australia with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy with Honours in 2006. She is available for appointments at FMP Kim Ma Clinic and at corporate offices