Calgarians know the risk of repetitive actions, but many don’t take precautions to prevent injury

Calgarian Davin Wine extends his arms as high as they will go above his head. Then his fingers interlace as his arms tumble downwards to reach in front of his body.

Wine can be seen stretching in his t-shirt on a winter’s day. Nicknamed the “polar bear” for failing to dress for the weather by his friends, Wine seems to thwart the elements.

But he’s realized he’s not invincible. About four years ago, Wine noticed pain in his forearms.

Produced by Jenica Foster

It was a combination of consecutive 18-hour days slumped over a computer as a wire line engineer on the rigs that led to Wine’s repetitive strain injury. He said the pain shooting through his forearm often affected life outside of work as well.

“I basically resigned myself to dealing with it and living with the pain,” he said.

Wine is one out of an estimated every 10 Canadians who suffer from repetitive strain injury, as suggested by Statistics Canada in 2001.

The Workers Compensation Board of Alberta has also noticed large amounts of people suffering from this injury. They published a report that said in 2012 there were 11,444 long-term strain claims. This injury was at the top of the list, with superficial wounds being the next most claimed injury in 2012 at 2,647.

The injury develops because repetitive motions create miniature tears in the muscles causing a build-up of scar tissue, said Trae Tanner, registered massage therapist at JoyChi Health Clinic in Calgary. This scar tissue makes the muscle less flexible, causing pain, he said.

There are a number of ways people can prevent repetitive strain.

But, ergonomic consultant Rachel Tran of ErgoRisk Management Group said many people need convincing that the way they position themselves, especially when working at computers, causes injury.

The large number of claims relating to strain is the reason the last day of February is repetitive strain injury awareness day. This year, it falls on Feb 28.

jfoster@cjournal.ca