Cumulative Injury Cycle

The Cumulative Injury Cycle: What’s gluing you together?

This is also know as the Repetitive Strain or Stress Injury cycle.  As a Chiropractor and Active Release Technique  practitioner I have seen how the Cumulative Injury cycle affects people. (what is Active Release Technique? click here for more information) The factors of the Cumulative injury or Repetitive strain cycle are present in everyday life – especially in office ergonomics and while driving.  Many can also present after an acute trauma.  This cycle often produces painless dysfunctions that buildup until a person has an acute injury that seemingly comes out of nowhere,  whether it is tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis or rotator cuff tendinosis, all of these factors are present.  Each factor contributes to the next one in the cycle .

Cumulative Injury Cycle

The Cumulative Injury cycle: What’s gluing you together?

Repetitive Strain/Cumulative Injury cycle – the components

Weak And Tight Tissues:

Repetitive effort or prolonged poor posture can make the muscles tighten. A tight muscle tends to weak and a muscle that is weak it tends to be tight and often tightens tissues around it.  Additionally, affected muscles loose their ability to coordinate their contractions and contribute to the overall stability of the local joints.


Internal forces on the weakened and tight tissues rise.  Internal friction, pressure, or tension can be present, often all at the same time. If one or more of these is great enough, acute injury and inflammation can result even without external trauma.

Decreased Circulation – Edema/Swelling:

The result of increased forces is to decrease local circulation. This pressure can effect many structures.  Lymphatic channels when under pressure limit the return of interstitial fluid and the result is edema.

Scar Tissue-Adhesion-Fibrosis:

Decrease in circulation means reduced oxygen delivery. A decrease in oxygen locally stimulates fibrosis and adhesions that can glue different layers of tissue together. In the case of repetitive or prolonged postures or injuries this often begins slowly but progresses over time if the cycle is not interrupted.  When these factors are significant enough or in an acute injury occurs, additional factors come into play.


Injured tissue produces inflammation and inflammation contributes to all of the above.  Omega 3 fatty acids are critical in helping moderate inflammation and hence can help disrupt the cumulative injury cycle. (That is a whole other post in itself).

The Results:

The Cumulative Injury cycle is  often self-perpetuating. It is often asymptomatic at first but often as painless dysfunction continues  a persistent painful problem can emerge.  This often happens slowly or it may come on rapidly after what seems like a trivial event.    These may include carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, Achilles tendinitis, Runners knee, shoulder tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow and others.

How Active Release Techniques can help:

Cumulative Injury Cycle

To resolve soft-tissue adhesion’s and scar tissue, injuries and chronic pain, ART alters the tissue structures by breaking up adhesion’s (which cause muscles, ligaments, tendons and even nerves to become stuck or glued together) and restores normal function to the soft-tissue areas. ART unique integration of movement during treatment allows the practitioner to remove adhesion’s between muscle layers. This allows the person to strengthen the previously weak-tight muscle and return to optimum function. (using Active Release Technique on an ankle ligament –left)

What can you do for yourself?

Self-care is the primary defense against the Cumulative Injury cycle.  A diet aimed at maintaining a healthy weight and controlling inflammation in the body, moderate exercise that increases the heart rate, stretching to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion and adequate rest are all necessary to limit the effects of the cumulative injury cycle.  Adequate restorative sleep is necessary so your body can keep up on its regular maintenance.  Finally, avoiding smoking, addressing blood sugar problems,  and stress are also very important.

Have more questions, want to schedule an appointment click here.

Request Your Appointment Today!

Call Us!
Call Us Text Us