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Phys Ther. 2002 Feb;82(2):173-87.

Pathophysiological tissue changes associated with repetitive movement: a review of the evidence.

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Physical Therapy Department, College of Allied Health Professions, Temple University, 3307 N Broad St (602-00), Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) represent approximately one third of workers' compensation costs in US private industry, yet estimates of acceptable exposure levels for forceful and repetitive tasks are imprecise, in part, due to lack of measures of tissue injury in humans. In this review, the authors discuss the scope of upper-extremity WMSDs, the relationship between repetition rate and forcefulness of reaching tasks and WMSDs, cellular responses to injury in vivo and in vitro, and animal injury models of repetitive, forceful tasks. The authors describe a model using albino rats and present evidence related to tissue injury and inflammation due to a highly repetitive reaching task. A conceptual schematic for WMSD development and suggestions for further research are presented. Animal models can enhance our ability to predict risk and to manage WMSDs in humans because such models permit the direct observation of exposed tissues as well as motor behavior.

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