If you are one of the millions of Americans who spends hours working in front of a computer, lifting heavy objects or performing the same tasks over and over, you may be at risk of repetitive strain injuries. Understanding how these develop, how to prevent them and what to do if you begin suffering from such an injury can help you greatly.
Repetitive strain injuries, also referred to as repetitive stress injuries or repetitive motion injuries, occur when repetitive strain or motion is put on a body part. A person working in an assembly line at a factory, for example, may continually perform the same hand motion. A typist, secretary or computer programmer may type and use a computer mouse for eight or more hours a day. A landscaping worker may put continuous strain on his lower back from digging, lifting and performing other physical tasks. In any of these or similar scenarios, repetitive strain injuries may occur.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive strain injuries have three leading causes: speeding up assembly lines in plants, excessive typing or use of a computer mouse, and repetitive, heavy lifting. These injuries account for about one in four illnesses and injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that result in missed time from work. One major insurance company even reported that workers’ compensation claims for repetitive strain injuries were double the average claim for other occupational injuries and illnesses.
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Types of Repetitive Strain Injuries
Back injuries are one of the most common repetitive stress injuries seen in American workers, accounting for 65% of occupational illnesses and injuries reported to the BLS in 1993. These are most frequently attributed to heavy lifting and may also result from repetitive motion or awkward positioning of the back when performing work-related tasks. Workers who must lift heavy objects, perform physically demanding tasks and work in tight spaces may put constant strain on their backs, damaging muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons or bones. The back is designed to be extremely strong and flexible, but constant overuse and strain can cause serious injuries.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most well-known repetitive strain injuries and affects the hands, wrists and forearms. This is most often seen in assembly line workers and people who work with computers. Fine hand movements, repeated thousands upon thousands of times, may eventually put undue strain on muscles and tendons in the wrists, fingers and forearms. Though the movements may seem minor and may require little effort, the continuous motion and awkward positioning of the hands and wrists can cause microscopic tears. Inflammation may then results, which pinches neighboring nerves and leads to pain, numbness and limited motion.
Proper positioning, rest breaks, task variation, lifting equipment and ergonomic tools and workstations can all help prevent repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and back injuries. Because these injuries are so difficult to treat and can cause debilitating pain and limited motion, prevention is crucial. Employers should take appropriate measures to ensure employees have the right equipment and tools to perform their jobs. This may include educating employees on proper positioning of the body for heavy lifting, redesigning workspaces or assembly lines or providing ergonomic equipment that reduces physical strain.
Seeking Workers’ Comp Benefits
If you are suffering from a repetitive strain injury related to your job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. This may cover your medical care, ongoing treatment and lost earnings if you become unable to work. Recovering these benefits can be difficult, however, and as such it is important to consider involving a legal professional. If your claim was denied, is being disputed or has been delayed, talk to a South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer about your rights and options. George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers represents injured and disabled workers across South Carolina in these complex claims, helping them seek the benefits they deserve. Contact us today!