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Common Upper Extremity Injuries for the DIY Weekend Warrior

by Erik Krol, MOT, OTR/L1 Comment

The past eight months in my new role as a father-to-be has challenged my organizational, physical and power tool skills in order to prepare our home for the new baby’s arrival. During the week, I work 40+ hours as a hand/occupational therapist treating and rehabilitating patients’ upper extremity conditions. On the weekends, endless home improvement projects have left my hands, wrists, and elbows feeling more sore, inflamed and tighter than ever before. My own recent upper extremity symptoms have led me to practice everything that I preach in the clinic.

It is a beautiful Saturday morning, and that means another trip to the home improvement store. Before leaving the house, I do some range of motion exercises to shake off the work week’s tense grip on my shoulders. Back at home, after a few productive hours of torque, vibration fatigue, and several lacerations later, I head toward the freezer to ice my elbows. It is a challenge to check things off my list while watching budgeting cost, managing time and avoiding injury!

If you or someone you know can relate to my weekend DIY aches and pains, then you may benefit from becoming familiar with some common injuries of the upper extremities, as well as ways to self-manage your symptoms.

Common Upper Extremity Injuries:

  • Lateral Epicondylitis: More commonly known as Tennis Elbow; people experience pain in their outer or lateral elbow, especially with gripping and lifting wide tools and objects. Decreased grip strength is a secondary symptom, mostly due to pain brought on when squeezing. Aching and morning stiffness is also common.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An injury to the median nerve caused by squeezing of the nerve as it travels through a small space near one’s wrist known as the carpal tunnel. Changes in that space due to arthritis or swelling can also have an effect on the nerve resulting in numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in any combination.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Pain at the shoulder with overhead activities typically caused by joint instability and impinging tendons between bony structures.

Tips for Self-Managing Upper Extremity Symptoms:

  • Pacing: set timers for 10-15 minute intervals to remind yourself to take breaks or change positions in order to prevent overuse aches and pains from poor posture and repetition.
  • Body mechanics: Avoid using an overhand grip when handling large tools/objects; instead turn palms inward or upward when gripping and lifting.
  • Protective equipment: Invest in thick gloves to eliminate the effects of vibration.
  • Stretch: Maintaining adequate flexibility through simple stretches before/after working can improve stiffness and prevent poor postures and pain.
  • Ice: apply ice to your sore areas for 5-10 minute intervals throughout the day to eliminate swelling and pain.

If you think any of these symptoms are staring you in the face and calling your name, perhaps it is time to consider seeking ways to prevent/alleviate these common orthopedic issues before doing more harm than good. Self-management and occupational therapy are two great ways to gain control of one’s symptoms and improve the performance of whatever activities are important to you. Click the button below to find an Athletico occupational therapist near you.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Cooper, Cynthia. Fundamentals of Hand Therapy: Clinical Reasoning and Treatment Guidelines for Common Diagnoses of the Upper Extremity. Elsevier Mosby, 2014.

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About the Author:
Erik J. Krol is a Hand Therapist/Occupational Therapist, father of two, runner, and former college athlete. Erik uses his background education in kinesiology and professional training in hand therapy to provide recommendations on preventing injuries during daily roles and routines. Follow Erik's work and interests in remaining healthy and, more importantly, functional to achieve family, work, and personal goals while combating the environmental and aging challenges.

1 Comment

  1. Johnny King

    Very informative post and extremely well written. I display all the symptoms listed on a consistent basis. I guess I need to manage myself a bit better.

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