Repetitive Motion Disorders
What are repetitive motion disorders (RMDs?
Repetitive motion disorders (RMDs)
are a family of muscular conditions that result from repeated motions performed in the
course of normal work or daily activities. RMDs include carpal tunnel syndrome
, epicondylitis, ganglion
cyst, tenosynovitis, and
. RMDs are caused by too many uninterrupted repetitions of an
activity or motion, unnatural or awkward motions such as twisting the arm or
wrist, overexertion, incorrect posture, or muscle fatigue. RMDs occur most
commonly in the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, but can also happen in the
neck, back, hips, knees, feet, legs, and ankles. The disorders are characterized
by pain, tingling, numbness, visible swelling or redness of the affected area,
and the loss of flexibility and strength. For some individuals, there may be no
visible sign of injury, although they may find it hard to perform easy tasks.
Over time, RMDs can cause temporary or permanent damage to the soft tissues in
the body -- such as the muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments - and
compression of nerves or tissue. Generally, RMDs affect individuals who perform repetitive tasks such
as assembly line work, meat-packing, sewing, playing musical instruments, and
computer work. The disorders may also affect individuals who engage in
activities such as carpentry, gardening, and tennis.
Is there any treatment for repetitive motion disorders?
for RMDs usually includes reducing or stopping the motions that cause symptoms.
Options include taking breaks to give the affected area time to rest, and adopting stretching and relaxation exercises. Applying ice to the
affected area and using medications such as pain relievers, cortisone, and
can reduce pain and swelling. Splints may be able to
relieve pressure on the muscles and nerves. Physical therapy may relieve the
soreness and pain in the muscles and joints. In rare cases, surgery may be
required to relieve symptoms and prevent permanent damage. Some employers have
developed ergonomic programs to help workers adjust their pace of work and
arrange office equipment to minimize problems.
What is the prognosis for repetitive motion disorders?
Most individuals with RMDs recover completely and can avoid re-injury by
changing the way they perform repetitive movements, the frequency with which
they perform them, and the amount of time they rest between movements. Without
treatment, RMDs may result in permanent injury and complete loss of function in
the affected area.
What research is being done?
Much of the on-going research on
RMDs is aimed at prevention and rehabilitation. The National Institute of
Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) funds research on RMDs.
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
Last Editorial Review: 1/6/2005
Source: National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov)