Repetitive motion disorders (RMD’s) result from repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or daily activities. Repetitive motion injuries are among the most common injuries in the United States and make up over 50% of all athletic-related injuries seen by doctors. Repetitive motion disorders develop because of microscopic tears in the tissue. When the body is unable to repair the tears in the tissue as fast as they are being made, inflammation occurs, leading to the sensation of pain.

RMDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendonitis, epicondylitis, ganglion cyst, tenosynovitis, and trigger finger and are caused by excessive repetitions of an activity or motion 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.

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, meatpacking, sewing, playing musical instruments, and computer work. The disorders may also affect individuals who engage in activities such as carpentry, gardening, and tennis.

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. Without treatment, RMDs may result in permanent injury and complete loss of function in the affected area.