A worker does not have to be in an accident in order to be injured on the job. Repetitive stress injuries, or RSIs, encompass over one-hundred various injuries resulting from forceful or awkward movements that occur repeatedly for a prolonged time. Also known as cumulative trauma disorder, jobs prone to RSI include line-factory jobs, jobs with extensive typing or computer use and jobs that require heavy lifting.
Among the most well-known RSIs are carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and low-back musculoskeletal disorders. RSIs damage nerves, muscles and tendons. RSIs are not limited to one area of the body like the elbow or wrist, but can affect many body parts (and more than one body part at a time).
RSIs can limit an employee’s daily activities, cause severe pain and prohibit the employee from performing his or her usual job duties. However, because these injuries occur gradually, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes these injuries are severely underreported as workplace injuries. Still, in 2010 OSHA reported 29 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses involved musculoskeletal disorders.
Symptoms of RSI
Those suffering from RSI often report feeling pain in the affected area, tightness in muscles, stiffness, swelling, numbness or tingling. Having one area affected by numbness does not necessarily mean that area has the RSI, but could be the symptom of RSI in another location; a pinched nerve in the neck can subsequently numb the hand, for example.
Treatment options can include a better ergonomically designed workplace. For example, specially designed keyboards and office chairs can improve symptoms of RSI. Physical therapy can help reduce symptoms of RSI, as do regular stretching and physical exercise. Those concerned about RSI should consult a doctor to diagnose the injury and recommend treatment options.
A common misperception is that RSIs are not “workplace injuries” and that workers’ compensation only applies to workers injured in a workplace accident. While OSHA does not have standardized ergonomic hazards, it still mandates “general safety” that employers must meet, so contact OSHA for an inspection if you believe your workplace is unsafe.
A RSI is a legitimate workplace injury. If you believe you are suffering from a RSI, speak to a doctor about your injury and contact your employer or a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after it is diagnosed.
While insurance companies can make recovery for RSIs difficult, monetary help with recovery is possible. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation RSI attorney in your area who is familiar with RSI in order to give yourself the best chance at recovery.