Repetitive Motion Injuries

Repetitive motion injuries, also called repetitive stress injuries, include damage to muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons caused by doing the same motion over and over.

A common repetitive motion injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve, which travels from the forearm to the hand through a "tunnel" in the wrist, is compressed by swollen, inflamed ligaments and tendons. The injury can be quite painful and may cause numbness and clumsiness, as well as a loss of motion, flexibility, and strength. Without treatment, it can worsen over time and result in neurologic damage.

Symptoms of Repetitive Motion Injuries

Each person may experience a repetitive motion injury differently, but common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tingling sensation
  • Throbbing sensation
  • Weakness
  • Numbness

Causes of Repetitive Motion Injuries

Repeated use can damage a muscle or muscle group faster than they can repair themselves, leading to injury. Certain activities may increase your risk for a repetitive motion injury, such as playing sports, using a computer keyboard, playing musical instruments, and working on an assembly line.

Treatments for Repetitive Motion Injuries

Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan based on your age, overall health, and medical history; the severity of your condition; and your tolerance for certain medications, procedures, or therapies.

The goal of rehabilitation after a repetitive motion injury is to help you return to the highest possible level of function and independence, while improving daily life, physically, emotionally, and socially.

In order to help reach these goals, repetitive motion injury rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Exercise to stretch and strengthen the area
  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury
  • Heat or cold applications
  • Use of braces or splints to immobilize the area
  • Medications
  • Injections
  • Patient and family education, especially regarding proper ergonomics for the workplace (ergonomics is the science of matching the human body to work-related tasks and tools)

Rehabilitation programs for repetitive motion injuries are usually conducted on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals may be part of your repetitive motion injury rehabilitation team, including an orthopedist/orthopedic surgeon, neurologist/neurosurgeon, sports medicine doctor, occupational medicine doctor, physical therapist, physiatrist, occupational therapist, or vocational counselor.

Why Choose Columbia for Repetitive Motion Injury Care

Our highly skilled physicians provide expert diagnosis and management of repetitive stress or overuse injuries. We focus on conservative management when possible, including exercise, lifestyle changes, splinting, medications, and selective use of injections, when needed. In cases requiring surgery, we will refer you to a collaborating Columbia surgeon. Our physicians are particularly skilled in the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound as a diagnostic technique and as a guide for injections to achieve the maximum benefit.