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BFMC Occupational Therapist

Repetitive Strain

by Cathy Ambo | May 22, 2009

Repetitive strain injury or cumulative trauma is the result of repetitive, forceful and/or awkward hand movements. A person’s posture during an activity, the workstation setup and pace of the workload are all contributing factors for repetitive strain injuries, also known as cumulative trauma disorder.

  • Intensive hand use can result in any or all of the following symptoms:
  • Pain and swelling
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Clumsiness
  • A feeling of heaviness.


These symptoms may develop over a period of weeks, months or years. You may have difficulty:

  • Opening doors
  • Pushing and pulling movements
  • Pain holding the phone
  • Writing
  • Typing
  • Holding a book or newspaper
  • Getting dressed
  • Brushing your hair
  • Keyboarding, etc.


To prevent this you may want to:

  • Use a larger grip pen for writing
  • Adjust your chair at your computer desk so your elbows, hips and knees are at 90 degrees, wrists should be straight, and flatten the kickstand on the keyboard.  The computer screen should be level with the top of your head. Use a headset to answer the phone. Pace your work and take short 2-3 minute stretching breaks. 
  • Use rubber pads to open jars
  • Keep knives sharp for easier cutting
  • Use loop scissors to decrease stress on your fingers
  • Fill containers half full (e.g., tea kettle, laundry basket)
  • Use two hands to lift (e.g., milk and juice containers)
  • Use a padded steering wheel cover when driving and relax your grip on the wheel.


If you already have symptoms of pain, fatigue, swelling, or find yourself dropping things more often, you should consult your doctor to insure a proper diagnosis and to rule out other possible causes.


Call Baystate Rehabilitation Care at Baystate Franklin Medical Center at 413-773-2227 for more information or to make an appointment with an occupational therapist, .