Imagine a narrow, green valley with a wide river running straight down the center. A busy, rustic village sits in the valley split in half by the river. A long, shining suspension bridge expands the river with huge stone pillars for support on each side. The narrow valley is frequented by violent wind storms that funnel down.
These wind storms are so violent that they tear on the bridge, causing strain in the cables that support the structure. The huge stone pillars creak with the strain, and anyone found on the bridge is thrown to the ground as it heaves and shakes. After each storm, workers from the village pour out from each side making minor repairs to the bridge to prevent any real damage that the storm could cause. This is performed with each storm, and the bridge, an engineering wonder, has lasted for years without showing signs of any change in its flawless structure.
If and when the storms become more frequent with less time in between, there seems no way of determining when one stops and a new one starts. Little to no work can be accomplished during a storm, so the workers can no longer keep up. The bridge will quickly start to show cracks in the heavy stone buttresses supporting the cables, and the cables will begin to fray. Eventually the storms subside in number and the bridge can be assessed for damage. The once beautiful stone pillars supporting the large expanse of the bridge have become cracked from top to bottom. In some areas, stones are missing completely. Where the stone had once nobly born the weight of the cables, the stones have slipped and the cables sagged. Along the expanse of the bridge, cables supporting the shining suspension bridge are snapped in places. The many intertwined wires that formed the cables have begun to snap along the expanse of the cable, and entire portions have started to unravel.
The bridge is your muscle or tendon, and the storm represents the stresses we put upon our tissues with use. You can see with repetitive tasks why the damage can be cumulative and harmful. This is where injuries like lateral epicondylosis (tennis elbow), plantar fasciosis, and rotator cuff tears come from.
Repetitive use injuries occur when a tissue is not given proper time to heal. This can be caused by lack of strength from surrounding supportive structures. Each new stress is not mitigated by the surrounding muscles but rather repeatedly placed on the already injured tissue. Drugs can inhibit the healing process. Anti-inflammatory medications can inhibit the body’s natural response to send workers to fix the damaged tissue. Frequent use of NSAIDS with tissue injury decreases the pain but prevents the mechanism of renewal that naturally occurs in the body. Lastly, a person’s natural inclination to “Go! Go! Go!” without rest can increase the propensity for damage from repetitive stress.
If you have suffered any repetitive storms in your life and your bridges are feeling painful, weakened, and not up to full operation, see a physical therapist. Therapists are experts in appropriate tissue healing. We can help get you back to full function.