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"Is Repetitive Motion the Silent Culprit Behind Your Injuries?"

Updated: Apr 16

What you do most of the time will be the root cause of most of the physical issues that afflict you as you get older. This is not your fault because you didn't know and no-one told you.

But we're about to tell you so now you can do something about it. In this weeks blog-post Paul draws on his years of experience working with injured and achey clients to explain how what you do outside the gym may have more to do with the injuries that you incur inside the gym. And if you don't happen to be a gym-rat, he also explains how modern life creates fertile ground for all your aches and pains, and he does so with reference to His Majesty the King's Royal Guard...

A soldier stands on duty for the king
A King's Guard on duty

The primary cause of your injury is usually not our concern

When we see amateur training enthusiasts or the general public coming into the practice at Myokinetics with their [insert injury], very rarely are we at all interested in the sport that they participate in or what they were doing at the time of said injury. In most cases that is a modestly useful piece of information, of greater interest to us. is what they do when they're not exercising. This is because the majority of injuries that we see (besides being hit by a bus) are caused by the repetition of a small number of specific movement patterns usually encountered in the workplace.

The problem with work

The most debilitating repetitive movement that we see is the relatively undisturbed 8 hour half squat that many office workers engage in Mon-Fri otherwise known as sitting.

Another is the 8 hour shrugging front raise otherwise known as typing at a computer. There are numerous versions of these 8 hour exercises- there's the 8 hour crunch (slumping at the desk), or the 8 hour unilateral trap shrug (holding a phone to your ear). In fact if you look at it like this, what you do at work should be more exhausting than the 1 hours training that most folks tend to do every other day at the gym.

And while it may not seem it, these repetitive movements or static positions are extremely taxing. The act of trying to remain comfortable for 8 hours of the day either holding a fairly uniform posture, or doing a small number of repetitive movements is extremely demanding on the body. Doing this day in day out, and week in week out causes your body to begin to physically adapt to those positions and movements.

Your body, the one that you were born with, is one that has been designed, not for a two hour commute and 40 hour work week sitting at a desk selling paperclips for Acme Tools Ltd, but for surviving outside and providing for the basic needs of itself and others through direct physical activity in the external physical world.

The modern first world has created modern first world injuries. And while yes the majority of us live beyond the age of 30, the majority of us also do so in ever increasing amounts of pain and discomfort as we age. What a joyful prospect for the future!

However it does not have to be this way. If you grasp the notion that the repetitive nature of your work—whether it be in an office setting, a factory environment, or manual labor—is predominantly responsible for the physical issues you encounter, then you are on the right track. These issues are invariably linked to the physical adaptations your body undergoes due to the habitual positions you assume and the movements you consistently perform. Day in, day out, week after week—this repetition takes its toll.

Occupational Health can't fix it

It is a fallacy of the gurus in Occupational Health that your work related RSI's, bad backs and chronic neck pain will be fixed by the provision of a standing desk, ergonomically designed chairs or any number of painfully ineffective faddy appliances that seek to address the symptoms rather than the cause.

Do not expect your new fangled standing desk to fix your work related issues. Here's the rub, you'll exchange one 8 hour static hold (the half squat) for another (the 8 hour stand). If the King's Guard, on guard duty at Buckingham Palace, are only expected to stand on guard duty for TWO hours at a time, what can you possibly expect to happen if you spend an 8 hour day standing behind a desk? We'll tell you - you're going to suffer chronic and acute low and middle back pain, and since you're probably still expected to use a computer and phone you're neck will still give you gyp. Give it another 5-6 years and it'll be all over the Daily Mail.

The real fix: take charge of your own health

The issues that we most often face largely fall into one of two categories

  1. the sedentary worker who doesn't want to do anything.

  2. the sedentary (but sporty) worker who wants to do the sports they enjoy.

In neither case is there space during their free time away from the office to try to undo the effect of their working life on their physical body. And this is despite the fact that in both cases doing so would lead to a vast improvement in well-being, health and fitness. Oh, and better outcomes in their chosen sporting endeavours for the sporty ones.

Irrespective of what you may or may not do the two joints of most importance for your long term health and happiness are the most mobile ones - the shoulder and the hip girdles. Most injuries and strains tend to radiate from a dysfunction in one or both of these areas.

A little effort goes a long way. It doesn't require much to develop an understanding of how your hip and shoulder girdle should move and work. It then takes a little time to regain the mobility and flexibility lost by years of repetitive movements / positions. Lastly, it takes a little dedication to strengthen those muscles that have become chronically weakened over the same period. But doing so will guarantee health and happiness and pain free movement for years to come.

In providing deep tissue massage to clients, we spend many hours hunched over clients, pushing elbows into backs and hamstrings. Knowing that our shoulder girdles are performing alot of specific movements - forced internal rotation and protraction to be precise - we spend time in the gym working on developing mobility and strength in external rotation and retraction. We dedicate some of our free time to counter-acting the movement patterns that our work forces upon us. And we limit the amount of extra internal rotation and protraction that we do when training. This is common sense and we do so in order to avoid pain and discomfort.

You are responsible for your own body

We chose the jobs that we do, therefore we should take some responsibility for the impact that our choices have on our body. In many cases the responsibility for looking after the physical well-being of employees has been (unfairly) passed entirely to employers. There is no expectation on the employee to address those things that he or she probably could do to avoid some work related issues.

Working in a coal mine one would expect an employer to provide breathing apparatus, such an expectation is entirely reasonable. But when an employee's bad back is due to chronically tight hip flexors and under active glutes developed through years of sitting behind a desk, and where the actual fix requires the individual concerned to:

  1. stretch their hip flexors and

  2. activate and strengthen their glutes

there is no compulsion on the employee to do so. They are usually passive recipients of interventions that either address symptoms rather than causes or modify working practises so that one set of repetitive behaviours is replaced by another.

It may not be entirely your fault that you have a desk job, but if you have a bad back or chronic neck pain as a result of this desk job, it is your fault if you don't devote some time each week to exercising in ways that help you to undo the damage caused by that desk job.

If any of the above makes sense, feel free to make a booking with any of the team for a pain and injury assessment and we'll get you on the right track to moving out of pain and discomfort - but be prepared to do some work to get there.

Disclaimer please note well: The information provided on this health and well-being blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, or guidance. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or the emergency services immediately.

The authors of this blog are not medical professionals, and the content provided here is based on personal experiences, research, and general knowledge. It is important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for individual health concerns. The use of any information provided on this blog is solely at your own risk. The authors, contributors, and the website owner disclaim any responsibility for any adverse effects resulting directly or indirectly from the information provided.

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