What Is A Repetitive Motion Injury?

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A repetitive motion injury comes in different forms. Find out what they are and all other important details about this condition below.

RELATED: Top 9 Most Common Musculoskeletal Injuries of Athletes

In this article:

  1. What Is Repetitive Motion Injury?
  2. Where Can Repetitive Motion Injuries Develop?
  3. What Are the Common Symptoms of Repetitive Motion Injuries?
  4. What Are the Types of Repetitive Motion Injury?
  5. What Are the Causes of Repetitive Motion Injuries?
  6. Who Are at Risk?
  7. How Are RMIs Diagnosed?
  8. What Is the Treatment for Repetitive Motion Injury?
  9. How Can You Prevent Repetitive Motion Injuries?

Everything You Need to Know About Repetitive Motion Injuries

What Is Repetitive Motion Injury?

Repetitive motion injuries (RMI) or repetitive motion disorders are a group of conditions which result from a gradual buildup of damage to the muscles, tendons, and nerves. This damage is usually from repeated actions done in our daily activities like:

  • Using a computer mouse
  • Typing
  • Swiping items at a supermarket checkout
  • Grasping tools
  • Working on an assembly line
  • Training for sports

Where Can Repetitive Motion Injuries Develop?

RMIs most commonly affect the:

  • Wrists and hands
  • Forearms and elbows
  • Neck and shoulders

What Are the Common Symptoms of Repetitive Motion Injuries?

The progression of the following symptoms may start gradually and become more intense and constant:

  • Pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat

What Are the Types of Repetitive Motion Injury?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This condition causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers. This happens because the median nerve is compressed as it moves through the wrist at the carpal tunnel.

Bursitis

This is an irritation of the bursa, the thin-layered sac found at the joints and surrounding tissues like tendons and ligaments. Symptoms include redness, swelling, aching, and stiffness of the affected area.

In some cases, fever may occur and the patient may feel a sharp pain when the affected area is touched.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis occurs when a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle, get inflamed or irritated.

Epicondylitis

This happens when an area of the bone epicondyle or end part of a long bone is inflamed or damaged. It has two types:

  • Tennis elbow is an RMI caused by the overuse of the lateral epicondyle of the elbow and end of the upper arm.
  • Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, is an RMI caused by the overuse of the medial epicondyle of the upper arm bone.

Ganglion Cyst

This is a sac of fluid that forms over a tendon or joint.

Tenosynovitis

This is the inflammation of the synovium, a fluid-filled sheath that surrounds a tendon, which causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. It can be infectious or non-infectious.

Trigger Finger

This condition is characterized by pain, stiffness, and the locking or catching of the finger when bent or straightened. This usually happens to the ring and thumb finger but it can occur on the other fingers, too.

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What Are the Causes of Repetitive Motion Injuries?

man lifting boxes | What Is A Repetitive Motion Injury? | repetitive motion injuries

RMIs develop when repetitive movements gradually damage the muscles and tendons. Here are more activities that increase the risk for RMIs:

  • Repetitively using the same muscles
  • Standing or sitting for prolonged hours
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Being in a bad posture for long hours
  • Lack of physical activity and exercise

Who Are at Risk?

People working desk jobs are not the only one at risk of developing RMIs. The following jobs involve daily repetitive movements, too:

  • Dental hygienists
  • Construction workers who use power tools
  • Cleaners
  • Cooks
  • Bus drivers
  • Musicians
  • People with previous conditions or injuries like rotator cuff tear

How Are RMIs Diagnosed?

To diagnose the condition, your doctor will ask about your daily activities and your work set up to pinpoint repetitive movements.

Your doctor will also perform a physical exam to check the range of motion, reflexes, and strength of the affected area. The doctor will also look for signs of pain, tenderness, and inflammation.

To check for tissue damage, your doctor may also order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. You may also undergo electromyography (EMG) to rule out nerve damage.

What Is the Treatment for Repetitive Motion Injury?

Some of the remedies for RMI pain and discomfort are:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)
  • Oral and/or topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroid injections
  • Exercises (usually prescribed by a physical therapist)
  • Stress reduction
  • Relaxation training
  • Heat or cold application
  • Use of braces or splints to immobilize the area
  • Pain management techniques, e.g. deep breathing exercises, physical therapy

Specialists also recommend workstation adjustments like optimizing your chair’s height and the level of your screen to lessen muscle tension and strain.

If the RMI is quite severe, surgery may be needed.

How Can You Prevent Repetitive Motion Injuries?

As much as possible, maintain a good posture to avoid giving your muscles unnecessary stress.

  • Sit up straight and do not slouch.
  • Avoid cross-legged sitting.
  • Position and angle your monitor slightly below eye level with its center at the height of your shoulders.
  • If you have an adjustable chair, check for multiple comfortable positions.
  • When sitting, make sure to distribute your weight evenly and use the whole seat and backrest.
  • Set your desk or chair to the optimal height. Constantly reaching and stretching the hands and shoulders because of a desk or chair too high or too low can strain your muscles.
  • Always place your mouse near your keyboard to avoid unnecessary reaching and stretching.
  • Use a headset if you’re always on the phone at work to protect your neck, shoulders, and arms from straining.

Take breaks!

  • Allot time to stretch or walk around.
  • Wiggle your fingers, stretch your shoulders, flex your wrists from time to time when seated.

It may take practice but mindfulness of your posture and movement is one of the best preventive measures for repetitive motion injuries. To prevent RMIs from getting worse, it is always best to consult your doctor when initial signs and symptoms occur.

Watch this video from MobilityMastery to know more about what causes RMI and how to heal and prevent them:

For RMI pain management, try this Dr. Seeds supplement combination. The Body Protective Complex and Multi Collagen Complex combination can help reduce inflammation and repair damaged connective tissues.

Have you tried taking health supplements for muscle or sports injury? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

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