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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1998 Jun;(351):63-73.

Australian repetition strain injury phenomenon.

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  • 1Melbourne Hand Surgery and Rehabilitation Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The industrial upper limb pain epidemic colloquially known as repetition strain injury rapidly increased in the early 1980s to peak in 1985. Its less precipitous decline coincided with an awareness that repetition strain injury was a nonphysical sociopolitical phenomenon and a corresponding loss of the pecuniary benefits enjoyed by the powerful vested interest groups. Although its protagonists incorrectly claimed that this was a new disease, the rise and fall of repetition strain injury followed its historical predecessors including telegraphists' wrist and writer's cramp. Those affected by this phenomenon, a clearly defined cohort, were all employees who were highly suggestible and engaged in menial repetitious tasks with little job satisfaction. These patients were differentiated from those with genuine work related injuries whose symptoms are reproducible, with physical signs easily defined, disease identifiable, and response to physical treatment predictable. Most patients with repetition strain injury genuinely suffered the symptoms of which they complained and made little secondary gain relative to the protagonists of repetition strain injury who had a vested interest. The similarities between Australian repetition strain injury in the 1980s and American cumulative trauma disorder in the 1990s is compelling.

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