Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are the result of damage to muscles, nerves and/or tendons that occur from the strain of repeatedly performing the same motion. Typically, RSIs (also referred to as “repetitive motion injuries,” “repetitive strain injuries,” or “repetitive motion disorders”) are caused by spending hours performing the same action, movement or task over and over.
Not only can RSIs be painful, but they can often lead to costly treatment(s) and be debilitating.
Commonly, RSIs involve some kind of injury to a worker’s upper extremities, which includes the elbows, hands and wrists. RSIs can also involve the neck and shoulders from repetitive movements of the head as well as the back from constant lifting.
The most common RSIs include:
- Bursitis. Bursitis is a condition in which the bursar (small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints) becomes inflamed. The most commonly affected joints include the elbows, hips, knees and shoulders. The cause of bursitis is overuse and can be the result of heavy lifting. Bursitis tends to be a painful condition and is at its worst when the affected joint is being used or at night.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. One of the most well-known RSIs, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of excessive pressure being placed on the median nerve, which is responsible for controlling both sensation and movement in the thumb and first 3 fingers. This nerve runs the length of the arm and into the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of repetitive hand and wrist motion. Common industries that see carpal tunnel syndrome are assembly-line workers and those who type for a living.
- De Quervain’s disease. A lesser-known RSI that impacts the thumb, De Quervain’s disease is a condition that occurs when the tunnel that contains the 2 tendons responsible for wrist movement becomes inflamed. When this tunnel is inflamed, the base of the thumb becomes swollen and the lower arm can experience pain. Those experiencing De Quervain’s disease can have issues with their grip strength in addition to the pain and swelling.
- Tendonitis. Tendonitis occurs when the tendons (especially those in the elbows, hands and shoulders) become inflamed and swell. Common symptoms include lack of mobility and pain. Failure to treat tendonitis early will only increase the severity of the swelling and pain.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome. Thoracic outlet syndrome is the result of the nerves running between the lower neck and the first rib becoming compressed. Common causes of this RSI include assembly-line work, bad posture, lifting objects above your head and typing on a computer. Those suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome typically experience shoulder and neck pain as well as finger numbness.
Common RSI symptoms
In addition to the symptoms for specific conditions, there are also generalized symptoms that those who experience RSIs can suffer from. These symptoms include:
How to prevent RSIs in the workplace
Understanding and implementing basic workplace ergonomics is one of the best ways to avoid becoming an RSI sufferer. Employers should look for ways to reduce RSI injuries at work by providing proper training in ergonomics. Employees should focus on maintaining a good posture while performing their job duties.
Ensuring employees have access to ergonomic tools is key. Common ergonomic tools include:
- Adjustable desks
- Computer monitors capable of reaching eye level
- Footrests for tall chairs
- Headsets for long phone calls
- Supportive chairs
The goal of implementing ergonomics and other measures to reduce RSIs is to lower the chance of workplace injuries and keep workers’ compensation claims to a minimum. When employers have fewer workers’ comp claims, it can help keep the cost of insurance down, which keeps more money in everyone’s pockets.
If you experience an RSI due to repetitive working conditions, consult an experienced attorney who has knowledge of workers’ compensation law.
In this article, we’ll look at the different challenges facing a hypothetical injured worker and the legal team hired to help him or her recover damages for injury.