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Repetitive Overuse Syndrome


Lynnette Khoo-Summers, DPT
treats patients at

Washington University Physical Therapy Clinics
4444 Forest Park Avenue, 1210
St. Louis, MO 63108

Phone:  314-286-1940
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Question: I’ve heard about repetitive overuse syndrome. Can you tell me more about this diagnosis?

Answer:  Repetitive overuse syndrome (ROS) is usually defined as work-related symptoms caused by repetitive and excessive use of your body. It is a term commonly used with performing artists, such as dancers and musicians, because they use the same muscles repeatedly.

ROS results from improper muscle balance around the joints. Some muscles work too much while others do not work enough. Muscle balance is a function of both muscle strength and length. If the muscles that control the alignment and movement are out of balance, movement strategies may be adversely affected. This leads to increased symptoms at the joints or surrounding soft tissues such as muscles and tendons.

ROS commonly occurs in hips, knees, ankles and feet in dancers, while musicians are more affected in their arms, shoulders and necks. Both groups can have back problems. If you are suffering from recurring symptoms while performing a specific activity, it is important to rest your muscles frequently throughout the day.

If possible, take breaks and change positions (standing up for musicians or sitting down for dancers).

Patients with ROS should be evaluated by a physical therapist to diagnose specific movement problems. This can include examination of the joints above and below the symptomatic area. Exercises will be prescribed to treat muscle strength and length deficiencies and to correct any movement faults while performing.

If you feel any symptoms while practicing or performing, it is important to seek treatment as the condition will only worsen. Relative rest should be part of your rehabilitation plan. Relative rest is when there is a reduction in the time, frequency and duration of the activity that is causing symptoms. Individuals may be instructed to slowly increase their activities until they achieve their prior performance level.

Please contact your physician for a physical therapy referral so you can begin treatment and get back to performing symptom free.
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Copyright 2014 Washington University School of Medicine