It is reasonable to assume that most physicans, case managers, and physical therapists have all dealt with an injured worker who is diagnosed with a repetitive-use injury; otherwise referred to as “Repetitive Motion Disorder” (RMD) by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  While RMD’s occur most frequently to the arm and hand, they can certainly develop elsewhere – the feet, knees, hips, and spine.  Indeed, most occupations existing today involve some degree of repetitive movement and the reality is that, given enough time, RMDs are inevitable.  The question therefore is this:  how does the injured worker return to their occupation when it’s the very nature of the occupation itself which is the cause of the injury?  The answer, as one would expect, lies in a greyish area between “easily” and “not going to happen.”  The reason for this convolution?  Well, one must look at the variables involved:

1)  Time The longer RMD is allowed to persist, the more  permanent its symptoms may become.  Recongnition and Intervention are the first and, arguably, most important variables when considering the likelihood that the injured worker will return to their occupation.

2)  Job Demand:  An important step to resolving an RMD case is addressing the cause(s) behind the issue and, wherever possible, suggesting reasonable accomodations be made to their workspace to prevent reaggreavation of the injury.  This can be accomplished through a Jobsite Analysis, which objectively studies and evaluates the injured worker’s occupational environment.

3)  Course of Treatment:  It is not possible to know how the injured worker will perform once back at work, so allowing a chance to “practice” can determine the feasibility of a full duty return-to-work.  This is the function of Work Hardening – a long duration therapy program which is able to simulate (within reason) both the intensity and duration of the worker’s occupation.   The results of this program can also yield reasonable accomodation suggestions that can allow the injured worker to make a successful transition back to full duty.

Ultimately, timely action and cooperation between the injured worker, their healthcare provider(s), and their case manager can mean the difference between temporary and permanent injury when RMD is the diagnosis.  For more on RMD, click here.


Written by Industrial Health, a specialized Workers’ Compensation therapy center which services Northern Virginia , Sterling , Loudoun , Fairfax , Dulles , Chantilly , Leesburg , Ashburn , Herndon , Reston , Centreville ; and offers programs including Physical Therapy , Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE) , Work Hardening , Work Conditioning , Impairment Ratings , Permanent Partial Disability Ratings

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