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,
- ganglion cyst,
- tenosynovitis, and
- trigger finger.
- 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?
- Treatment 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 anti-inflammatory drugs 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.
Source: National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov)
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