To avoid musculoskeletal injury, you need to protect your hands not only at work, but also in activities outside of work.
Exposure to injury-risk factors has a cumulative effect: Your body doesn’t care if you are exposed to repetitive motion, vibration or static loading at work, home, during sports or while doing hobbies. These exposures add up throughout the day, and when exposures are sustained, intense or frequent, or if you have exposure to multiple risk factors, your risk of injury increases.
Be aware of how you use your hands and arms in everyday life. Avoid wrenching jars open with your hands (there are now tools that can open jars easily for you), wringing out clothes or carrying heavy pots from the sink to the stove. Don’t use your hands as a hammer, limit your exposure to vibration from power tools and avoid repetitive, forceful hand motions, such as chopping vegetables (use a food processor instead). Sports that expose your hands to shock, such as tennis or racquetball, are not the best choice when you are already using your hands extensively in your work as a massage therapist. Pastimes, such as tying flies for fishing, doing embroidery or playing video games, involve repetitive movements that can overuse your hands, which may already be overused in your work. Becoming more conscious of not overtaxing your hands and arms (or your shoulders, neck and back) in your daily life can go a long way to reduce your injury risk over the course of your career.
©Lauriann Greene is co-author of Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, Second Edition (www.saveyourhands.com). Greene has been a researcher and writer on injury prevention for massage therapists since 1993, when she graduated from Seattle Massage School. She is a former columnist on self-care (“Helping the Healers”) for MASSAGE Magazine.