Repetitive stress injuries, also known as repetitive motion injuries or cumulative trauma disorders, are injuries that develop gradually over time as a result of repetitive movements or awkward postures.
Just like back or neck injuries caused by a single accident, work-related RSIs can affect people in a wide range of occupations. But RSIs are particularly common among workers whose jobs require them to perform the same motions over and over. People who frequently develop RSIs at work include cashiers, factory workers, cooks and people who type or use computers throughout the day.
One of the most common workplace RSIs is tendinitis. Tendons are the connective tissues between muscles and bones that allow the joints of the body to move back and forth. When tendons become inflamed or irritated, this condition is known as tendinitis. Tendinitis causes pain and inflammation near the affected joint, and occurs most frequently in the shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels. In many cases, tendinitis can be treated with rest and physical therapy. However, in severe cases of tendinitis, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tendon.
Another common work-related RSI is bursitis, which involves painful inflammation of the bursa sacs, or bursae. A bursa sac is a small, fluid-filled pad that cushions and lubricates the area between tendon and bone to prevent friction. Chronic pressure caused by things like prolonged kneeling, frequent lifting or extensive sitting can lead to bursitis. Signs of bursitis include achiness, stiffness, swelling, inflammation and sensitivity to pressure in the affected area. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment for bursitis may include rest, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections or surgery.
Workers’ Compensation for RSIs
A worker who develops an RSI may be unable to perform his or her job functions. Unfortunately, since rest is a critical part of the healing process for any RSI, people who try to work through the pain of an RSI end up making the condition far worse – and if left untreated, RSIs can cause permanent pain and disability.
People who develop work-related RSIs are often eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits to pay for their medical treatment, rehabilitation and disability.
Source: “Repetitive Stress Injuries,” UPenn, Environmental Health & Radiation Safety