The umbrella term cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) (also known as repetitive strain injuries, overuse syndromes, and repetitive motion disorders) covers a number of similar conditions arising from overuse of the joints or soft tissues of the upper extremity. Occupational CTDs have become a common problem in the workplace. These disorders are costly to the employer, the worker, and society in terms of time lost from work and resulting disability. Within the past decade, occupational therapists and physical therapists specializing in rehabilitation of work-related musculoskeletal injuries have seen an increase in the incidence of CTDs of the upper extremity in the workplace. Therapists are called upon not just to treat these injured workers, but also to help them regain a functional level for work reentry and to educate them to prevent reinjury. This article reviews the literature on the epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, and management of upper-extremity occupational CTDs. Because the ultimate goal of the workplace is to maintain the health and safety of the employee, an educational approach to hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder use is essential to prevent, decrease, or eliminate the risk of occupational CTDs of the upper extremity.

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