We’ve now explored some of the key muscles involved in causing the symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), and how to treat them, and here we’ll continue our tour.
Working in conjunction with the flexors are the Brachioradialis, supinator and extensors, a set of muscles located alongside each other on the outer (hairy!) side of the forearm. They attach at the top to the lateral epicondyle, the uppermost bony protuberance on the outer elbow, and at the bottom by long tendons to various hand and finger bones.
The extensors extend the wrist and hand, allowing you to bend the hand back and straighten or raise your fingers, and are associated with any pain to the outer part of the forearm and tennis elbow.
You will find Extensor carpi radialis longus by placing your fingers in the thick roll of muscle at the outer elbow and feeling it bulge when you turn your wrist in towards your body. Trigger points are commonly found here and are a common cause of tennis elbow. They also send a burning pain to the outer side of the forearm and the back of the wrist and hand.
Use your knuckles, fingers or a tennis ball to massage this muscle and release the trigger points. By massaging deeply all around the head of the radius (the bone on the thumb side in the forearm), you will also help deactivate trigger points in Brachioradialis (found alongside this muscle) and supinator, which lies beneath both muscles. The Brachioradialis is responsible for helping bend the muscle and the supinator turns the hand palm side up.
The supinator can squeeze the radial nerve if affected by trigger points in turn causing numbness in the thumb side of the hand.
Be aware that the trigger points in this set of muscles are difficult to differentiate from each other.
If you use a tennis ball and a wall, remember to keep both on the thumb side of your arm and exert pressure by leaning the body against and towards the arm. Roll the ball slowly and repeatedly over the trigger point with short, deep strokes.
The next muscle — Extensor carpi radialis brevis — can be found by placing your fingers on the upper side (hairy side) of your forearm near the crease where your arm bends. Now feel the muscle contract when you bend your hand straight back at the wrist.
Trigger points in this muscle refer pain to the back of the wrist and hand, along with a sense of tightness, burning, or aching in the back of the forearm, and can also sometimes compress the radial nerve, causing numbness and tingling in the hand. They are found 7cm-10cm down from the elbow, right against the shaft of the radius (bone on the thumb side of the forearm
You can find the belly of the next muscle — Extensor carpi ulnaris — and its trigger points by placing your fingers just below the elbow on the outer side of the forearm. It will contract when you bend your wrist in the direction of the little finger. Pain is felt in the ulnar side (pinky side) of the wrist and hand, and the sensation can feel like a sprained wrist.
You can massage using a ball against the wall, palm facing down and the thumb side of the hand away from the wall. Either keep the arm straight hold it horizontally, with your body weight providing pressure, and stroke repeatedly toward the elbow.
De-activating of any of these trigger points, or any of the others we’ve focused on in Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, works best with multiple sessions spread across the day, each lasting no more than a minute or two. Remember not to raise the pain level above a maximum of 7.
A wheat bag can also be used to alleviate some of the pain once you’re past the inflammation stage. Place a warm wheat bag on the arm or elbow, or over your shoulder where the wheat settles at the bottom of the bag and on your shoulder blade, relaxing the muscles. This in turn re-sites the shoulders, as though the shoulder blades were being pulled down. When the wheat bag goes cold, take it as a sign you’ve been sat at your screen too long! Time to get up and move about!
In the final post in these series focusing on RSI, we’ll explore the stretches you can do to stay healthy and pain-free. If you want to find out more right away, why not download our guide, 3 Steps to Healthier Computing or contact us at The Wells Clinic?