Repetitive Motion Injuries
Anyone working in a job that requires performing the same task involving certain movements repeatedly is at risk of repetitive motion injuries.

Some jobs may require a person to stand or sit in one place for long periods, whereas others call for frequent repetitive motions, which over time, can cause serious injuries and physical harm to the body. 

The following are some of the most common repetitive motions that may eventually lead to injuries:

  • Typing
  • Using a computer mouse
  • Working on an assembly line
  • Using a cash register
  • Scanning items
  • Using tools/machinery
  • Frequent lifting of heavy objects
  • Moving cargo/inventory
  • Carrying heavy items

Furthermore, people who work in certain conditions are more likely to develop repetitive motion injuries. Inadequate ergonomics, cold temperatures, and poor posture are examples of such conditions.

Injuries can be divided into two categories:

  • Traumatic injuries
  • Cumulative injuries

Traumatic injuries are the result of one-time incidents, such as a fall, whereas cumulative injuries are the result of repeated stress and damage over time.

Any physical injury caused by the repeated use of muscles, nerves, tendons, or other body parts is referred to as a repetitive motion injury, also known as a repetitive stress injury or repetitive strain injury.

What are the most common repetitive motion injuries?

Anyone who works in a job that requires them to perform the same tasks involving certain movements repeatedly is at risk of repetitive motion injuries.

The most common repetitive motions injuries include:

Tendinitis

  • Tendons are bands of fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. Although tendons are extremely strong, repetitive motion can cause tendinitis (inflammation of tendons).
  • The shoulders, biceps, and elbows are the most common places for this inflammation to appear.

Bursitis

  • A bursa is a cushioning sac present at various joints. There are over 150 bursae in your body, most of which are found in the elbows, knees, and hips. 
  • Bursitis occurs when that sac becomes inflamed and irritated due to pressure and repetitive movements.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Caused by a pinched median nerve in the wrist, which is usually the result of prolonged exposure to vibration or repeated forceful pressure.
  • Tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand are all possible symptoms.

Tenosynovitis

  • Inflammation of a tendon and its protective sheath.
  • It can result in joint pain, swelling, and stiffness

Thoracic outlet syndrome

  • A group of disorders is caused by compression of blood vessels or nerves in the thoracic outlet (the space between your collarbone and your first rib).
  • This can result in shoulder and neck pain, as well as numbness in your fingers.

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What are common signs and symptoms of repetitive motion injuries?

The signs and symptoms of repetitive motion injuries depend on the body part which is prone to repeated use in daily life.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
    • Could be a burning, aching, or shooting pain
    • Could be local or widespread
    • May get exacerbated after a long session of repeated use
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Tingling, numbness, or loss of sensation
  • Heaviness
  • Clumsiness
  • Lack of strength
  • Lack of control or coordination
  • Reduced flexibility or range of motion

In addition to these symptoms, some behavioral changes may occur in the affected individual, who may:

  • Avoid using the affected part.
  • Find alternative ways to cope with daily tasks.
  • Avoid wearing or buying certain kinds of clothing because it is too difficult to put them on.

What are treatment options for repetitive motion injuries?

Repetitive motion injury treatment varies depending on the area affected, the severity of the condition, and whether any underlying conditions are present.

Common treatment options may include:

  • Medication: To alleviate pain, anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), muscle relaxants, or antidepressants may be used.
  • Heat or ice therapy: Ice or heat therapy can help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Splinting: Offers support and strength.
  • Injections: Steroid injections may be recommended for some people.
  • Surgery: Often used as a last resort when other treatments are ineffective or unlikely to provide relief. 
  • Physiotherapy: To reduce stress on the affected area and improve its strength and function, exercises, bracing, and manual therapy are combined with patient education.

Prevention can be better than treatment in people who are at risk of repetitive motion injuries. You should always try to take regular breaks from your repetitive activity, such as standing up and walking around or simply wiggling your fingers and flexing your wrists regularly. Activity modification can help reduce symptoms and speed healing.

An ergonomic workplace redesign is generally a good idea. It is best to speak with your employer, who may be able to make accommodations for you.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Repetitive Motion Injuries https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/repetitive-motion-injuries

https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/rehab/staywell/repetitive-motion-injury

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/repetitive-motion-disorders