Repetitive Stress Injuries At Work

Workplace injuries are often associated with a single, life-altering incident, such as an engine explosion or a fall from a roof. In fact, however, a large proportion of work-related injuries develop over time from the cumulative effect of repetitive movements or postures on the job—from keyboarding to scanning groceries, from hammering nails to holding a jackhammer. Fortunately, employees may get workers’ compensation benefits for repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), as long as they can show that their work duties were to blame.

Under state workers’ comp systems, RSIs go by different names, such as overuse injuries, repetitive strain injuries, or cumulative trauma (a larger category that includes other injuries that develop over time, like hearing loss from repeated exposure to loud sounds). Whatever the name, RSIs include many different conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendonitis, trigger finger, rotator cuff syndrome, epicondylitis (often called tennis elbow), lower back pain, and more.

An RSI may involve any or all of several different symptoms in the affected part of your body like pain, from tenderness and dull aches to throbbing or acute pains, tingling and numbness in distal extremities, loss of strength or coordination as well as reduced range of motion.

In the early stages, you may not notice any symptoms, or you may experience them only when you’re doing a particular motion or holding a particular posture. Without treatment, you may eventually experience the pain, weakness, and other symptoms all the time—even after rest—leaving you unable to do your job or even perform simple actions needed for your daily life.

Most people associate RSIs with working at a computer. Given how many jobs regularly require using a keyboard, mouse, and/or touchscreen, it’s no surprise that computer-related cumulative injuries to the hands, wrists, and arms are widespread. But RSIs can develop from a wide range of other job tasks that require repeated micro-movements, frequent lifting and carrying, using vibrating equipment, or holding awkward postures.

In addition to the many occupations that involve computer use, other high-risk jobs for RSIs include all healthcare workers from doctors to patient transport personnel, janitors and housekeeping cleaners, bus drivers, plumbers and pipefitters, agricultural and meat processing workers and firefighters among many more.

It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of an RSI so that it can be caught early on. If you think that your symptoms are related to your job, notify your employer immediately.  You should also see a doctor as soon as possible (though you’ll have to follow the rules in your state’s workers’ comp system for seeking medical treatment for a work-related injury). “Toughing it out” or waiting to get care could not only hinder your recovery, but it might also make it more difficult to get workers’ comp benefits.

Be sure to tell the doctor what you were doing when you experienced symptoms, as well as the time of day. The treating physician might say that you need to stop working for a while or work shorter hours to allow your RSI to get better. The doctor may also prescribe work restrictions, such as frequent breaks, time limits on how long you should do certain tasks, or ergonomic adjustments to your work station or equipment.

If your employer’s insurer balks at paying for your medical care or denies your claim, it would be a good idea to speak with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. RSIs can be expensive for insurance companies. These injuries resulted in the longest absences from work (among the most common workplace injuries) during several years in early 2000s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Insurers often do everything they can to avoid paying benefits. A skilled and experienced attorney can tilt the scales in your favor by developing the proper medical evidence to support your claim. (Learn more about what a good workers’ comp lawyer should do for you.)

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. HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.