Repetitive Motion Disorder (in general)

What is Repetitive Motion Disorder?

Repetitive Motion Disorder (RMDs) refers to any pain caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Also called Repetitive Strain Injuries, this group of conditions includes carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and bursitis.

RMDs occur when you overuse a specific muscle or muscle group. In addition to repeated motions, incorrect posture or holding the same posture for long periods can contribute to the condition. So can experiencing frequent vibrations or supporting a lot of weight for long periods.

Anyone at any age can develop an RMD. Some medical professionals suspect there is a link between psychological stress and repetitive motion disorders.

What are the Symptoms of Repetitive Motion Disorder?

Some of the more common symptoms that you may experience if you have a repetitive motion disorder include pain and tenderness in the affected muscle or joint, tingling, a loss of strength and a loss of feeling. Some people also feel a throbbing or pulsing sensation in the impacted area.

Repetitive Motion Disorder Causes

Repetitive motion disorders can occur anywhere in the body. They result from continuous movement of joints, muscles, and tendons over a long period of time. Some of the more common repetitive motion disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger finger, bursitis, and tendinitis. While affecting different parts of the body, these various disorders have the same basic cause.

When a joint, muscle or tendon is used over and over again throughout the course of a work day or during sports, inflammation begins to develop in the area of repetitive motion. This inflammation often progresses to swelling and pain in the affected area.

An example of a repetitive motion disorder is carpal tunnel syndrome. It is caused when the muscles, and tendons in the wrist area are overused. Stiffness and pain are the results.

How is Repetitive Motion Disorder Treated?

Mild cases of repetitive motion disorders may be treated at home with rest and the application of alternating warm and cold packs. Depending on where the injury is located, a splint or brace may help support the afflicted muscle or joint. Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen may help reduce any swelling as well as minimize pain.

A physical therapist can be a great asset in helping with your repetitive motion disorder. Learning the correct way to move your muscle groups and performing regular exercises to strengthen the affected joint or muscle can help reduce further injury.

Your doctor can help if you are experiencing a lot of pain. Steroid injections may help reduce inflammation and make your pain more manageable as you work on other types of treatment.

In some cases, surgery can help with pain and other symptoms of repetitive motion disorders. Surgeons can make a larger area for the tendon or muscle to move and reduce any scar tissue.

Repetitive Motion Disorder Prevention

There are several different ways to prevent the occurrence of most repetitive motion disorders. The main way to prevent these disorders is to stop doing the work, sport or movement that is causing the pain and discomfort. If this is not possible, frequent breaks and rest periods may prevent repetitive motion disorders from occurring. Frequent breaks allow the joints to relax and adjust to the stress of the day.

Some repetitive stress disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented by the use of braces that keep the joint in a neutral position. In carpal tunnel syndrome, a brace is used to keep the wrist area from moving while the fingers are free to move and perform work such as keyboarding.

Other types of repetitive motion disorders may be prevented by the use of ergonomically designed items in the home or workplace. For instance, at the office, desks can be set at a proper height to avoid the need to constantly bend over.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
December 07, 2017