Muscle Pain from Repetitive Motion

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is most often mentioned in the context of office work and keyboard use, yet muscle pain from repetitive motion is also a blight for those who frequent in sports like fishing and tennis, where terms like ‘casting arm pain’ and ‘tennis elbow’ are frequently heard. Casting arm arises from repetitive motion. It originates when tendons near the humerus (near the upper arm bone, just above the elbow joint, on the outer side of the arm) become inflamed and begin to degenerate. This results in a condition called tendinopathy, which can be debilitating and cause more than one fisherman to hang up his rod. Moreover, it is just one of many sources of pain that can affect frequent fishers.

How does tendinopathy occur?

Tendinopathy arises because of the way we use our forearm muscles during casting. The forearm houses different muscles that enable us to stretch our wrist and fingers, to bend our fingers and wrists and to roll our forearms into a palms-up or palms-down position. Our tendons connect all these muscles to the bone above the elbows. Sometimes, the area where the tendon attaches is not strong enough to withstand the force of our muscles during casting; the tendons become overworked and as it is subjected to repetitive stress, inflammation and pain ensue.

Pain is different from angler to angler

While many fishers complain of pain on the outside of the elbow joint, the inside of the joint can also be painful owing to inflammation and small tears.

Repetitive Strain in other areas of the body

Although casting arm pain is most often mentioned in the context of bass fishing, other areas which can display pain include the back, shoulders and wrists. While some complain of pain that lasts for hours, others have pain that lasts for weeks and for a smaller group, pain is chronic. Researchers have noted that casting pain is less when multiple casting styles are used. Additionally, using lighter rods and modulating one’s grip to reduce oscillation when the rod is stopped (by strengthening the grip when the rod is stopped and maintaining a relaxed grip the rest of the time) can also be helpful. Also, try to avoid an overhand grip, which puts too much stress on inflamed extensor muscles. Ultimately, avoid grips that cause you pain; let your body be your guide.

Other helpful tips to lessen muscular pain include:

Give your body time to rest: Muscle pain takes a long time to heal; you may need between one and two months to recover quickly before taking your next fishing trip. Don’t give in to temptation and make a comeback before you are ready. Studies have shown that exerting oneself too far in sport and exercise can be counter-productive, wresting from motivation, impeding muscle recovery, and leading to muscle wastage and fatigue.
Pain Relief: Use hot or cold packs to obtain relief, or a combination of both. Anti-inflammatories can also be of great relief. Take them with food and water to avoid stomach upset, and if you find you need them for various days, consult your doctor about taking them with an antacid/calcium supplement.
Stretch: For tendinopathy, simply search online for useful stretching exercises for tennis elbow. There are a plethora of shoulder and back exercises which will keep you supple. If your injury is serious, see a physiotherapist, who will be able to provide you with a specific stretching routine that will help you heal and prevent further injury. Even if you are not in pain, invest a good 15 minutes in stretching your forearms, back and shoulders before your first cast.
Pilates: Pilates is a method which focuses largely on strengthening your core and correcting postural asymmetry. Sometimes, injury is caused because of poor alignment of the spine and the weakness of deep postural muscles that support correct alignment. Pilates has a host of additional benefits, including greater all-round strength, flexibility and suppleness of muscles, making it an excellent complementary activity for bass fishing.
Consider using a wrist splint: This will keep your wrist muscles from pulling away from the tendons it is attached to. Seek the help of a physiotherapist to help apply a tennis elbow strap, to be used during tennis or fishing.
Massage: Enhance optimal blood flow through the healing power of regular massage. If you can, have a specialised physiotherapist massage painful spots, though self-massage is also beneficial.
Invest in good equipment: The lighter your rod, baitcaster etc., the less stress will be placed on your muscles. Just a few ounces less can make a real difference in so far as ergonomics go, so treat yourself to the very best, since your top priority should be that of preserving your health and wellbeing.

Projectknow, The Role of Exercise Addiction Treatment Centers in the Recovery Process , accessed March, 2015., Gone fishing: overuse injuries in fishing, accessed March, 2015.

University of Michigan, Repetitive Strain Injury, accessed March, 2015., Tendinopathy, accessed March, 2015.

B Andres et al., Treatment of Tendinopathy: What Works, What Does Not, and What is on the Horizon. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 2008; 466(7):1539-54.

Fish, Flies and Water, A Healthier Cast, accessed March, 2015., What is Adrenal Fatigue?, accessed March, 2015., Avoiding Problems with NSAIDs, accessed March, 2015.

article by Helen Silver

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