Repetitive Motion Injury
What is a repetitive motion injury (repetitive stress injury)?
Repetitive motion injuries, also called repetitive stress injuries, are temporary or permanent injuries to muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons caused by doing the same motion over and over again. A common repetitive motion injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. This disorder occurs when the median nerve, which travels from the forearm to the hand through a "tunnel" in the wrist, is compressed by swollen, inflamed ligaments and tendons. It is often seen with people who use computer keyboards or work on assembly lines.
The injury can be quite painful and can also cause numbness, weakness, and a loss of motion, flexibility, and strength in the area. It can worsen over time without treatment, and can result in a complete loss of function.
Facts about carpal tunnel syndrome
The dominant hand is most commonly affected and causes the most severe pain. Women develop carpal tunnel syndrome three times more frequently than men. Carpal tunnel is likely more common in people with a congenitally smaller tunnel space. Trauma or injury to the wrist, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and pregnancy can also contribute to the disorder. It usually occurs only in adults.
Rehabilitation for repetitive motion injuries
A rehabilitation program for repetitive motion injuries is designed based on the type and severity of the injury. The goal of rehabilitation after a repetitive motion injury is to help you return to the highest level of function and independence as possible, while improving your overall quality of life — physically, emotionally, and socially.
To help reach these goals, repetitive motion injury rehabilitation programs may include:
Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the area
Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury
Heat or cold applications
Use of braces or splints to immobilize the area
Pain management techniques
Education, especially regarding proper ergonomics for the workplace (ergonomics is the science of obtaining a correct match between the human body, work-related tasks, and work tools)
The rehabilitation team for repetitive motion injury
Rehabilitation programs for repetitive motion injuries are usually conducted on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the repetitive motion injury rehabilitation team, including:
Orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon
Primary care doctor
Sports medicine doctor
Occupational medicine doctor