5 Common Repetitive Motion Injuries Involving the Hand and Wrist

Repetitive motions make joints prone to a group of injuries called Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). It is the result of stress and strain to the muscles, tendons, and nerves surrounding the joint(s). The cause of the condition can range from overuse from writing to playing tennis.

Five common Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This condition is the result of pinching of the median nerve by the flexor retinaculum. The compression can result from a fracture or swelling and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. There hasn’t be a single cause identified to cause carpal tunnel, it is thought that it is the result of a combination of factors. There are risk factors that are associated with the condition that include anatomical factors (i.e. dislocation, narrow carpal tunnels, etc), nerve damaging conditions (i.e. diabetes, alcoholism, etc.), inflammatory conditions (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, infection, etc.), alterations in homeostatic body fluids (i.e. pregnancy, menopause, obesity, kidney failure, etc.), and workplace factors. If a person is suffering from this condition, they can feel shooting pain, weakness, numbness, or a tingling sensation in hand, wrist, or elbow. If the symptoms begin to affect daily activities, it is important to seek treatment for a doctor.

Flexor Retinaculum

Flexor Retinaculum


This condition results from inflamed or irritated tendons and expresses as pain, inflammation and tenderness outside of the joint. The cause of the condition can be the result of repetitive movements over time, stress and strain, or a possible sudden injury. People that are older in age, athletes, and people in occupations that consist of repetitive motions are at greater risk of developing tendinitis. It depends on the severity of tendinitis will determine the route of care necessary to treat. Preliminary treatment can include resting to prevent use of the affected area, use of over-the-counter medication to reduce inflammation and pain, injection of corticosteroids, and physical therapy. If a person does not receive the appropriate treatment, there is risk that the tendon ruptures and will require the need of surgery to repair the damage.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a condition of overworked tendons in the elbow. This condition causes pain as a result of repetitive motions of the wrist and the arm. Cause of tennis elbow is due to muscle strain from activities that can range from poor techniques in tennis and repetitive motions due to activities in an occupation. People that are between the age of 30 and 50, athletes and certain occupations (i.e. plumbers, painters, cooks, etc) are at a greater risk of having overworked tendons that cause tennis elbow. Treatment of tennis elbow can be resolved by self-care and the use of over-the-counter medication for pain and inflammation. If treatment is necessary from a doctor, one can expect that they may be put into therapy to help reduce any stress on the damaged tissue, exercises to strengthen and stretch area, and braces. If there is not a remedy to the pain, the physician may order the patient to have surgery to remove the damaged tissue.

Vibration White Finger (VWF)

Vibration White Finger is also referred to as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and is a form of Raynaud’s syndrome. VWF is an injury due to the vibrations experienced in industrial work from the machinery that result in stress on hands and fingers. This condition is characterized by tingling or numbness in fingers, change in color of the fingers, and loss of manual dexterity. At this point there has not been an effective treatment for the condition other than stopping the use of vibrating machinery. It is recommended to warm hands in warm water to help with circulation of blood, and avoid blood thinners and smoking. There could be nerve damage as a result of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome that is irreversible.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

The cause for this condition is overuse of the wrist, damage to the tendon in the wrist and/or inflammatory arthritis. It is characterized by pain that affects the wrist on the thumb side.  Common symptoms related to De Quervain’s tenosynovitis includes pain and swelling near the base of the thumb, and there may be difficulty when attempting to move your thumb and wrist. Individuals at between 30 and 50 are at risk of being affected by De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. This condition is more common in women in men and may increase with pregnancy and caring for baby.

It is important to seek treatment for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis because delay can result in loss of range of motion. Treatment is most successful when it is started early and can include a combination of medication, physical or occupational therapy or in some cases surgery.

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