When you suffer a work injury in a fall or injure yourself on a piece of equipment, it’s immediately clear when and how the injury occurred. Your employer may still contest a workers’ compensation claim on other grounds. But there’s typically no argument that the injury wasn’t sustained at work–especially if you reported it promptly.
When you suffer a repetitive stress injury (RSI) on the job, the case is a bit more complicated. If you sustained that injury on the job, through repetitive motion or sustained awkward positioning or exposure to vibrations or some other cause, it should be covered by workers’ compensation. But because there’s no clear triggering incident for the condition, your employer may argue that your repetitive stress injury isn’t clearly work-related, or that you waited too long to pursue a claim. Many RSI claims are initially denied.
To protect your workers’ compensation claim for a repetitive stress injury, be aware of the signs and symptoms and consult a physician as soon as possible. And don’t assume that employer pushback–or even denial–is the end of the road. Be prepared to seek counsel and representation if your claim is denied.
What is a Repetitive Stress Injury?
A repetitive stress injury is an injury that results from repeated motions over time. Often, these motions aren’t the type you might assume would injure you. For example, repetitive stress injuries can result from computer use, running a cash register, assembling small parts, sewing, or operating a foot pedal as a transcriptionist.
One of the best-known types of repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and fingers. The condition is caused by pressure on the median nerve and can result in permanent damage if left untreated.
Repetitive wrist motion in a wide range of professions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
- Repetitive or sustained use of power hand tools;
- Repetitive or sustained use of a spray gun or similar instrument;
- Scanning items at a cash register;
- Handling items on a conveyor belt;
- Fine assembly work;
- Ill-fitting work gloves that apply pressure;
- Sustained awkward hand positions;
- Sustained or frequent tight gripping;
- Mechanical vibrations.
But these are just some examples among many. Carpal tunnel impacts knitters, cellists and violinists, dental hygienists, hairdressers, painters, farmworkers, bakers, butchers, electricians, and a wide range of other workers.
Other Common Repetitive Stress Injuries
Some of the other most common types of work-related RSIs include:
Bursitis is an inflammation of a fluid-filled buffer found in the area of large joints such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. Repetitive motion is one common cause of bursitis. Treatments may range from rest to splinting of the affected area, anti-inflammatories, and injected steroids.
Particular types of tendonitis go by many other names, including tennis elbow, jumper’s knee, and de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Tendonitis is simply the irritation or inflammation of a tendon. It most commonly affects the shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, and heels. But it can occur in any tendon. Tendonitis can often be treated with rest, pain relievers, steroids, and physical therapy. However, if the condition is severe or the tendon ruptures, additional procedures including surgery may be required.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a compression injury. The vast majority of TOS cases involve compression of the brachial plexus–the nerve running from the neck to the arm. A small percentage of cases involve compression of a vein or artery.
The primary signs of nerve-compression TOS include shoulder or arm pain, weakness in the shoulder or arm, tingling in the fingers, and the affected arm tiring easily.
TOS can be caused by repetitive motion with raised arms, and so often affects hairdressers, auto mechanics, and others who do overhead work or work that requires arms to be raised for extended periods. Treatment can range from physical therapy to surgery or nerve blocking treatment.
How Common are Work-Related RSIs?
In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 30% of workplace injuries involving lost work time were musculoskeletal injuries–272,780 cases in the most recent year reported. Although the report didn’t break out these types of injuries by cause, the report did say that overexertion and repetitive stress were the primary causes of these injuries. Since repetitive stress injuries aren’t always diagnosed in a timely manner and aren’t always officially attributed to work activities when they are, the actual number may be higher.
Seek Medical Attention Promptly
With many types of repetitive stress injuries, it’s important to stop the aggravating action and start treatment as soon as possible. But this type of injury isn’t always easy to identify. When symptoms start, many people dismiss them or decide to wait it out and see if they improve, since they can’t recall any type of injury.
Unexplained pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, or limited range of motion should be checked out by a physician promptly, to ensure that you aren’t doing continuing damage by ignoring the problem. Acting quickly to identify the problem can also strengthen your workers’ compensation claim, since it may be easier to tie the symptoms to your work activities and you may avoid challenges based on delay in reporting.
If Your Workers’ Comp Claim is Denied, You Can Fight Back
Many workers’ compensation claims that are initially denied, delayed, or undervalued are resolved positively at a later stage. If you’ve received an unfavorable determination in a repetitive stress injury claim or other workers’ compensation matter, it’s in your best interest to talk with an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer right away. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 855-4PLEVIN or filling out the contact form on this site.
Your time to appeal is limited, so don’t delay.