Repetitive stress injuries are among the most common and potentially life-changing workplace injuries.
They are also known as repetitive motion and repetitive strain injuries. As the name suggests, these injuries are a result of overuse of some parts of the body such as hands, arms, or neck. The repetitive stress causes damage to tendons, muscles, and nerves. An employee may suffer a repetitive stress injury by performing a task repeatedly over a long period of time.
Most of these injuries initially manifest themselves as aches and joint pains, and most workers tend to ignore them until the pain becomes worse and interferes with work. No matter how gradually the symptoms shows up, the worker is entitled to benefits under the Illinois workers compensation system.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the best known examples of repetitive stress injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome which affects the wrists and arms. The movements that can lead to repetitive stress injuries over a period of time include:
- Repetitive vertical or horizontal motion of the wrist
- Straightening or bending of the elbow from its positions at a right angle
- Movement of the fingers when the wrist is in an extreme position
- Reaching behind the body or above shoulder level
- Lifting heavy objects from below the waist level
These motions, when performed for a long period of time repeatedly, can cause injury to the wrist, arm, back, neck, elbow, or shoulders.
Workers Susceptible to Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive tasks in manufacturing, word processing, seafood processing, and assembly line often cause injury to the wrists, hands, neck, elbow, shoulder, and knee. Repetitive use of certain tools at the workplace for a prolonged time can also cause repetitive stress injuries. These tools and equipment include:
Computer mouse and keyboards: Typing, data entry, and repetitive clicking of the mouse can cause repetitive stress injuries among people working in offices.
Lifting heavy loads: Lifting heavy objects on the job regularly can cause damage to the spinal discs, and eventually result in a repetitive stress injury to the back. Truck drivers, construction workers, warehouse workers and delivery drivers are prone to these injuries.
Vibrating tools: Working with jackhammers, motorized saws, drills, dentist’s tools, and similar other vibrating tools can lead to repetitive stress injuries.
Forklifts: Constant and repeated rotations of the neck required by forklift operators cause repetitive motion injury to the neck.
Sewing machines: Those who work in textile mills or in footwear manufacturing are susceptible to repetitive stress injuries.
Repeatedly performing the same task can result in a number of work-related injuries over a period of time.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common repetitive stress injury that is linked with the overuse of the wrist. There are many types of repetitive stress injuries and workers ranging from baggage handlers and nurses to retail workers are prone to these injuries.
Serious Injury Develops Over Time
Small injuries can worsen over time and turn into something more serious that requires medical attention and time off work. Repetitive stress injuries include more than 100 different types of conditions and injuries and are primarily caused by the wear and tear of a body part over time.
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are also known as continuous motion injuries and are caused by repetitive stress and strain to muscles, ligaments, spinal discs, nerves, and tendons. A worker suffering from an RSI will experience recurring and continuous pain in the hands, neck, wrists, back, shoulders, and lower limbs. Any worker can develop an RSI when his or her job involves repetitive motion of a set of muscles. A worker who performs the following activities every day are more prone to developing RSIs.
- computer typing and mouse use
- moving heavy objects
- digging and landscaping
- lifting hospital patients
- stocking inventory
- using machinery and power tools
- standing in the same position
- lifting heavy weight
Common Repetitive Stress Injuries
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Damage to a specific nerve in the wrist causing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the fingers and hand. This injury is commonly reported in jobs that require prolonged joystick or computer use.
- Tearing and irritation of the tendons: Associated with overuse or over-stretching specific muscles.
- Irritation and inflammation of a bursa: A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that provides cushion to a joint. It causes pain and swelling in the affected joint and this condition is common in workers that have to constantly reach overhead or carry heavy items.
- Patellofemoral syndrome: A condition characterized by the weakening of kneecap cartilage caused by squatting, climbing, or kneeling.
- Stress fractures: Repetitive and rhythmic actions such as jumping, walking, or running can cause minute bone cracks.
- Epicondylitis: Commonly known as tennis elbow, this condition causes pain and swelling in the elbow and is caused by joint strain and overuse.
Symptoms of Repetitive Stress Injuries
Each RSI has a unique set of symptoms; however, common symptoms that may indicate an RSI are:
- joint or muscle weakness
- tingling or numbness
- lack of endurance
- coldness in the hands that will not go away
- adopting “awkward” posture to make common actions more comfortable
- using your non-dominant hand to avoid pain in your dominant hand
Chicago Workers Compensation Attorney
If you have sustained a repetitive stress injury as a result of the tasks you perform at the workplace, you must notify your employer immediately so as to start receiving your workers compensation benefits. If you have been injured on the job contact an experienced Chicago Workers Compensation Attorney at our law office.