Can repetitive movements over time injure a worker?

On Behalf of | Jul 20, 2021 | Workers' Compensation |

While most people equate work injuries with serious accidents, explosions, heavy machinery mishaps or vehicle collisions, significant damage can be done over time. From toxic exposure to repetitive strain, work injuries can have subtle beginnings with devastating consequences.

A common form of work injury is the repetitive motion injury. Also known as repetitive strain or repetitive stress injuries (RSI), this type of injury is characterized by the same movements over the course of months, years or decades on the job. A variety of conditions can result from repetitive work movements, including:

  • Carpal tunnel: In what is perhaps the most well-known of all RSIs, carpal tunnel is often linked with occupations requiring all day spent at the keyboard typing. Damage to the fingers, wrists and forearms can include symptoms such as a burning sensation, tingling, numbness and chronic pain.
  • Tendinitis: Tendinitis is a condition that affects tendons in the major joints in the body such as the shoulders, knees or elbows. Tendons are thick cords that connect the muscle to bone and can be strained by repetitive motions such as lifting boxes, operating heavy machinery or bending at the knee over and over. Symptoms can include swelling, pain and tenderness.
  • Bursitis: There are small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the joints. Repetitive strain on the hips, shoulders and elbows can damage these sacs leading to stiffness, pain, swelling and redness. In many cases, bursitis can be caused by poor posture in a desk chair for hours each day.
  • Damaged rotator cuff: The shoulder joints play a significant role in any lifting, carrying or pivoting motions workers accomplish while holding objects. The rotator cuff is the term used to describe the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff injuries can result in arm weakness, restricted arm movement, aches and pains, and the disruption of sleep.

It is important to remember that not all workers’ compensation-eligible injuries are the result of a single traumatic event. While falling down the stairs will likely result in serious injuries, years of sitting at a desk typing can cause significant damage to the muscles and tendons of the hands and arm.

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