Medical Information

Explore detailed information about a range of joint problems and treatments, including medications, surgery, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Reading this will help you understand more about your own condition. There is also a glossary with explanations of many medical terms used in orthopaedics. You can find out even more by following the links page to other related websites, journals or professional medical associations.

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Work-Related Rheumatic Complaints

The physical demands of work and exercise can make existing rheumatic problems worse. However, work can sometimes cause a rheumatic problem, particularly if your physical working methods suddenly change. These conditions are often known as work-related or occupational disorders. The term ‘repetitive strain injury’ (RSI) is less likely to be used nowadays. In sports medicine the term ‘overuse injury’ is used. If your particular sport or DIYactivity strains the same parts of the body that you also use at work, you may be more prone to rheumatic symptoms.

Other work and home demands can also make existing problems worse, or can add to symptoms occurring in the workplace. These might include, in the home, such things as stress or depression. In the workplace causes of stress might include bullying and jobs in which people have little or no control over their work pattern.

However, even if pain occurs in association with your job it does not necessarily mean there is any serious damage to your body. Often it will get better on its own with little or no medical treatment once the activity is stopped. Staying active generally will help you get better faster and prevent more trouble occurring.

This booklet explains how some common problems can arise and how to recognise them. It also gives advice on simple remedies you might try yourself.

What problems can happen in the arms and shoulders?
Tenosynovitis is an inflammation of one of the tendons that work the fingers or thumb. The tendon that pulls the thumb backwards is often involved (this is called De-Quervain’s tenosynovitis).

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed (squeezed) in the carpal tunnel on the underside of the wrist. The main symptoms are pins and needles in the hand, and weakness of grip.

Epicondylitis is a mild inflammation of the epicondyle (the site where the forearm muscles are joined to the bones of the elbow).

Shoulder problems Some shoulder problems are also probably caused by work, especially if you work above shoulder height.

Non-specific work-related upper-limb disorder Sometimes symptoms occur over a wide area. For this situation we use the term ‘non-specific work-related upper-limb disorder’. This can be difficult to diagnose, as the source of the pain still has to be identified.

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Editor: David P Johnson MD.
St Mary’s Hospital. Clifton Bristol. BS8 1JU.
Web site:
© OrthopaedicsOpinionOnline 2011

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Orthopaedic Opinion Online or the author. The information is provided for general background reading only and should not be relied upon for treatment. Advice should always be taken from a registered medical practitioner for individual circumstances and for treatment of any patient in any circumstances. No liability is accepted by Orthopaedic Opinion Online, or the author in respect to the information provided in respect of the content or omission or for any reason or as a result of treatment in individual circumstances. This information is not for use in the USA.