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
The injury can be quite painful and can also cause numbness, clumsiness, 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
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 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 to meet the needs
of the individual patient, depending on the type and severity of the injury. Active
involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.
The goal of rehabilitation after a repetitive motion injury is to help the patient
return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving
the 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
Patient and family 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: