Repetitive strain injuries are one of the most common injuries in the United States and across the globe. They make up over 40% of all athletic-related injuries seen by physicians and result in considerable losses in terms of cost to the health and workforce. All of these soft tissue disorders are made worse by the repeated actions of daily living, such as throwing a ball, jogging, and scrubbing a floor. 

The two most common types of repetitive strain injuries are tendinitis and bursitis. Although not life-threatening, these conditions can be painful and debilitating.

What are the common symptoms of repetitive strain injury?

Repetitive strain injuries have a wide range of possible symptoms. The most common ones include;

  • A pulsating and throbbing sensation in the affected muscle or joint
  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of strength
  • Tingling, especially the hand or arm

What Causes Repetitive Strain Injuries?

Repetitive motion disorders develop due to microscopic tears in the tissue. Inflammation of the muscles and tendons occurs when the body is unable to repair the tears as fast as they are being made - leading to the pain, tenderness and tingling sensations.

Some common causes of repetitive strain injuries include:

  • Repetitive activity
  • Constant friction
  • Direct trauma to the tendon or muscles
  • Crystal deposits (such as in gout)
  • Systemic disease (gout, rheumatoid arthritis)

How Repetitive Strain Injuries Are Treated?

The symptoms and causes of repetitive strain injuries are varied, so treatment options also vary. The commonly used types of treatments include:

Medications - Anti-inflammatory painkillers (such as ibuprofen and aspirin), muscle relaxants, and  antidepressants

Heat or cold - Applying ice packs or heat packs can help reduce pain and inflammation

Splints - They provide excellent elastic support

Physical therapy - It includes exercises, bracing or splinting, manual therapy, and advice on adapting activities to reduce the worsening of the injury.

Steroid injections - These are only advised to reduce inflammation

Surgery - As a last resort, surgical intervention can be used to correct problems with specific tendons and muscles.