Cumulative trauma disorder is an umbrella term covering a range of injuries to the nervous and musculoskeletal systems which are caused by repetitive stress over prolonged periods of time.


The most common symptoms reported by patients are numbness, pain, and tingling. In addition to the most common symptoms, however, a patient may also exhibit a reduced range of motion, loss of strength, or coordination deficits.


The diagnostic process generally entails reviewing the patient’s symptoms, conducting a physical exam, and evaluating their medical history. However, in more complex cases, where skeletal involvement in the injury is suspected, an x-ray may be required. Moreover, MRI or ultrasound scans may also be requested in order to analyze areas of soft tissue surrounding the injury.

Common Types

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed as a result of a sustained or repetitive motion such as typing. Patients experience numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and arm.

Tendonitis is characterized by the inflammation and swelling of a tendon. It’s caused by overuse and is most common among those who frequently participate in sports.

shin splintsShin splints typically occur as a result of repetitive actions. Persistent physical stress, such as that which occurs when running long distances, can prevent the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower leg from repairing adequately and lead to shin splints developing.

Bursitis is a condition most commonly observed to affect the shoulder, knee, and hip joints. It most commonly occurs when a bursa, a fluid-filled sac, becomes irritated or inflamed as a result of repetitive motion.

Treatment and Prevention

In order to reduce the risk of injury, it has become a common practice among conscientious employers to incorporate ergonomic design features within a work environment. While the nature of preventive measures varies depending on the specific environmental demands at play, they are unified by a common focus which concentrates on promoting good posture. Indeed, the goal of correcting posture is enshrined across the board in the design of everything from wrist supports for typists to intelligent assembly lines for factory workers.

Treatment of cumulative trauma disorder varies according to both the severity and location of the injury. Generally, patients are advised to curb whatever activity induces the condition and if necessary to supplement rest with icing or splinting. Rarely, in more severe cases, a patient may require shots of cortisone or even surgery.

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