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Did you ever hear of milkmaid’s arm? It’s actually an early description of what we today call repetitive stress or strain injury (RSI) that comes from repeating the same motions for hours at a time. Today, you might be hard pressed to find someone who has injuries from hand milking cows – at least in developed countries – but you don’t have to go too far to find someone who has RSI from work.


As someone who works with their hands all day at your spa or massage practice, you can easily be a candidate for RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is actually a specific type of repetitive stress syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist resulting from the way you use your hands. When that happens, you’re not only suffering but your business can suffer if you can treat all your clients and need to cut back.


Symptoms of RSI usually develop over time and in addition to aches and cramps, they can cause swelling, tingling, numbness, stiffness, weakness and even sensitivity to cold and heat, says the Cleveland Clinic. Here are some measures to avoid it:


Prevent RSI

  • Work at strengthening your wrists and fingers through exercise so you can avoid RSI. Here are two simple hand wrist exercises.
    1. Circle both wrists in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction.
    2. Stretch your hand and finger muscles by making a fist and spreading your fingers as wide as possible. (You can find other recommendations for hand-stretching exercises online).
    You also can use a hand exerciser to strengthen neglected muscles.
  • Massage hand tools are a great way to prevent hand strain and injuries to the thumb. These tools require less applied pressure than using your hands alone.
  • Keep your wrists straight during the session and your table at the recommended height for your weight. You also want to keep your stance straight.
  • Don’t apply the majority of your pressure from your hands. Put as much of your shoulder and back into applying pressure as you can.

Treating RSI

If you do start to experience RSI, you’ll want to tend to the injury right away. There are things you can do for short term relief but if it is causing you continual and severe pain, you’ll want to see a doctor.


  • Rest

    Try to take short breaks to rest your hands

  • Ice

    If you experience soreness, try applying ice to your hands and wrist and even your forearms. This creates blood vessel constriction, which will help lessen an inflammatory response. Consider applying a few minutes of ice in between session if you are doing a lot of back-to-back treatments.

  • Get a massage

    Self massage or see a therapist on a regular basis.

These are just some things you can do to prevent and mitigate the pain of RSI. Can you add any tips to this from your own experience?