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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

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Repetitive Motion Injuries

Repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) are also called repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). They result from doing the same activity over and over for a long period of time. This can be at work, at home, during sports, and/or with hobbies.

Signs &




to Ask

Self-Care /


Signs and symptoms depend on the injury.

For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

•  Thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers feel numb.

•  Tingling feeling in the hand(s).

•  Pain is felt in the thumb and fingers. The pain may be worse at night. It can wake you up.

•  Pain starts in the hand and spreads to the arm. The pain can even travel to the shoulder.

•  The fingers swell. It feels like your fingers are swollen. Your hands feel weak in the morning.

•  You have trouble holding on to things. You drop things.

•  You have a hard time writing with a pencil or pen, opening a jar, buttoning a blouse, etc.

Image of patient and doctor.
Image of a person holding their wrist.

In general, RMIs are caused by repeated movements that involve:

•  Drilling or hammering.

•  Lifting.

•  Pushing or pulling.

•  Squeezing.

•  Twisting.

•  Wrist, finger, and hand movements.

For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Repeated motions, typing vibrations, etc. cause swelling of the tendons inside the carpal tunnel. This is the narrow tunnel in the wrist. The swelling puts pressure on the nearby nerves.

For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

This is easier to treat and less likely to cause future problems if it is found early. Women are more likely to get CTS than men, because their carpal tunnel is usually smaller. Once diagnosed, CTS can be treated with:

•  Preventing further damage.

•  Wearing a wrist brace, splint, etc. as advised. It may need to be worn while you sleep and during the day.

•  Over-the- counter medicines to reduce pain and swelling. Examples are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.

•  Physical therapy.

•  Occupational therapy.

•  Cortisone shots in the wrist area.

•  Surgery, if needed.

Image of doctor examining hand and wrist.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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