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16-01-2012 | General practice | Article

Sufferers of computer overuse injury may benefit from myofascial release


Free abstract

MedWire News: Computer professionals with musculoskeletal pain in the forearm of their mouse-operating arm may benefit from myofascial release (MFR), shows research.

"Myofascial release is the application of low load, long duration stretch to the myofascial complex, intended to restore optimal length, decrease pain, and improve function," explain M Ajimsha and colleagues from the AIMST University in Kedah, Malaysia.

MFR generally involves slow, sustained pressure (120-300 seconds) applied directly to restricted fascial layers. Practitioners use their knuckles, elbows, or other tools to slowly sink into the fascia and apply a few kilograms of force to contact the restricted fascia, apply tension, or stretch the fascia.

Ajimsha et al say that myofascial practitioners believe that by restoring the length and health of restricted connective tissue, pressure can be relieved in pain-sensitive structures, such as nerves and blood vessels.

The team therefore investigated the effectiveness of MFR, compared with sham ultrasound therapy (control), in reducing the pain and functional disability of lateral epicondylitis (LE; based on the Southampton examination criteria) on the mouse-operating arm of 68 computer professionals (those who use a computer for 50% or more of the working day).

Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups. The interventions were provided three times weekly for 4 weeks, with a minimum of a 1-day gap between sessions. The duration of each treatment session was 30 minutes.

The Patient-Rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation (PRTEE) scale was used to assess pain severity and functional disability.

As reported in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the proportion of participants who had at least a 50% reduction in pain and functional disability index between weeks 1 and 4 was 100% in the MFR group and 0% in the control group.

The patients in the MFR group reported a 78.7% reduction in their pain and functional disability in week 4 versus week 1, whereas patients in the control group reported a 6.8% reduction.

The reduction in PRTEE scale score persisted at the 12-week follow-up in the MFR group (63.1% reduction from baseline), whereas the control group showed a 2.2% increase in their PRTEE scale score over this time period.

These findings suggest that a significant proportion of computer professionals with LE might benefit from the use of MRF, conclude the researchers. They add that the mechanisms underlying these responses "merit further investigation."

By Nikki Withers

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