Job-related Repetitive Stress Injuries

Chronic “work-related” hand and upper-extremity disorders have stimulated contentious medicolegal debate. The role of the hand surgeon in this debate is to ensure that every effort is made to institute appropriate evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the patient. In doing so, it is important to recognize factors both in the workplace and out of it that may con- tribute to patients’ upper-extremity complaints.

Apportioning weight to the multiple factors that influence the development of repetitive strain injury (RSI) or cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) is difficult and further complicated by the complexity of healthcare insurance plans. RSI and CTD comprise a multifactorial problem that is resistant to treatment unless all of the individual, psychosocial, and physical factors are addressed.

A number of terms, including RSI, have been used to describe mechanisms for injuries and disorders and are not themselves diagnostic entities. In fact, condensing all of these disorders under the term RSI or CTD has contributed to the confusion rather than assisted in clarification of this problem. Upper-extremity disorders can be caused by repetitive movements, occupational or otherwise, and abnormal postures or static positions, occupational or otherwise.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) and cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) are 2 of several terms used to describe a group of activity-related soft-tissue injuries that include tendonitis, forearm myalgia, and nerve entrapment syndromes, among other conditions. The area affected by RSI and CTD may be only the upper limbs, may include the neck and upper back, or may encompass the lower back and lower limbs as well. RSIs and CTDs represent an important burden arising from both sport- and work-related activity, the latter generating considerable societal and employer costs through workers’ compensation claims.

There is considerable evidence from the organizational behavior and industrial psychology literature that work reorganization can reduce psychological demands. Yet, even among those with RSIs or CTDs, secondary prevention activities designed to correct risky conditions may be very restricted in terms of coverage.

Research findings like presented here must be complemented with rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of workplace and regulatory interventions to persuade company and union officials and government policymakers to reduce the burden of work-related RSI, CTD, and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. If you suspect that you’re developing an RSI and it’s starting to impede your ability to work at full capacity, you do not want to put off getting it checked out. Delaying treatment will only make matters worse and it could wind up causing irreparable damage.

At HURT-511, our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

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