Repetitive Stress Injuries And The Workers That Get Them
Repetitive stress (or strain) injuries, or RSIs, are the most common occupational health problem in the United States; they cost more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation claims. And while outdoor workers typically have a higher risk of accidental injury (logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country), many white-collar occupations expose people to traumatic repetitive movements that could lead to nerve or musculoskeletal damage. Here are a few RSIs and the jobs that might increase your risk of experiencing them.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
There are around 849,000 new cases of carpal tunnel syndrome every year. The carpal tunnel where nerves and tendons pass from the arm to the hand. One of the nerves, the median nerve, carries “signals” from the brain to the fingers and hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is pinched by swollen tendons in the wrist and other complications. Repetitive movements that create stress for the tendons can cause this problem. Occupations that experience this type of injury include:
- Assembly-line workers
- Administrative support workers
Assembly workers can develop the syndrome since they may use vibrating hand tools, which may increase chances of tendon irritation. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in fingers, wrists, or arms. Early treatment can help, but severe cases could require surgery.
Tennis elbow, or epicondylitis, is a condition causing pain on the outside of the arm, where the forearm meets the elbow. Tiny tears in the tendons that connect muscle to bone cause inflammation and can cause pain in your arm. Epicondylitis may make it painful to lift and grip objects and could become chronic and extremely painful. Some employees susceptible to the development of “tennis elbow” are:
- Musicians (such as fiddlers, violinists, and pianists)
- This condition may be treated with exercise, physical therapy, or anti-inflammatory medication, but severe cases might need Botox injections, ultrasonic treatment, or even surgery.
While “tennis elbow” is a type of tendonitis, you can develop this condition in any tendon in your body. Most often, tendonitis can occur in the shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist, and heel, or other parts of the body that are constantly used on a day-to-day basis. Repetitive movements that irritate the tendons can cause tears, and continuous repetition of the same motion can make those tears wider or prevent them from healing at all. Rotator cuff tendonitis is a common condition and will feel like shoulder pain. Jobs that most often lead to rotator cuff tendonitis are:
- Athletes (such as swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players)
Symptoms of tendonitis include pain, weak joints, and swollen, warmth around the area. Tendonitis can heal after a few days of rest, application of ice packs, and anti-inflammatory drugs. More severe cases may need a brace, sling, or splint to keep the affected area from moving. Surgery may be needed in serious cases.
Back pain is a common symptom for many workers. Some workers who might be more prone to developing back injury are:
- Construction workers
- Nursing home caretakers
- Warehouse workers
- Bus drivers
Because the spine is the “column of strength” we depend on for movement and rotating, workers often to lift with using leg strength, rather than with the back. Back pain can also be one of the most difficult RSIs to deal with, as we use our spine to stand and sit.
If you’re experiencing pain on the job, don’t wait until your injury becomes debilitating. File a workers’ compensation claim so you can rest the problem area.