The Spine and Repetitive Motion Disorders (RMDs)
How can they affect the spine?
While most RMDs affect the arms and hands, they can occur in the spine as well. The majority of back injuries (particularly those that occur in the workplace) are the result of long-term, repetitive wear and tear on the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and discs in the spine. Repetitive movements such as pulling, straining, reaching, twisting, and bending can weaken and stress the structures of the spine and increase the risk of injury.
Treatment for RMDs
The first step in treating a RMD is to reduce or stop the motions that are causing the symptoms. Other treatments may include:
- Splints - to relieve pressure on the muscles and nerves.
- Medications - such as pain relievers, cortisone, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy - to relieve soreness and pain in muscles and joints and to strengthen muscles to help prevent future injuries.
- Ice therapy - to reduce pain and swelling.
- Surgery - in rare cases, may be necessary to help relieve symptoms and prevent permanent damage.
RMDs can be prevented. Use these important tips to reduce your risk for a repetitive motion injury:
- Take a break - avoid overuse of muscles by giving your body a chance to rest.
- Exercise - stretching and relaxation exercise can help build strength and increase mobility and range of motion and prevent future injury.
- Check your posture - correct posture during any type of activity helps align the elbow, wrist, hands and spine during repetitive motions.
- Use proper technique - avoid overreaching, stretching and twisting.
- Use protective equipment and have a properly designed workstation—make sure your office or work equipment is at the proper height and distance and allows you to perform your work safely and comfortably.
Keep Yourself Healthy
If you work in a job or regularly participate in activities that include repetitive movements, keep your body safe by avoiding RMDs. Allowing time for rest, regular exercise, and proper techniques are all keys to avoiding injury. See your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.
Commentary by Daniel A. Bruzek, DO
RMDs are a recognized cause of a great deal of our "nuisance" etiologies for pain problems. Evaluating the causes ergonomically is a very important portion of the diagnostic plan for patients with this condition. Mapping out a specific strategies for change is imperative, otherwise the treatment plan will fail without attempting to change the offending repetitive task that originated the problem.