Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) include a number of different conditions that are caused by the overuse of specific body parts.
They’re common on-the-job injuries – although not everybody recognizes them as such because RSIs develop slowly. That puts them in sharp contrast to sudden, traumatic injuries that are easily recognized as “work-related.”
Common examples of RSIs
Repetitive strain injuries typically affect muscles, tendons and nerves in the affected areas, and they can cause significant pain and functional impairment. RSIs often occur in wrists, hands, elbows, shoulders, necks, knees and lower backs. Some common diagnoses include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: A well-known RSI that affects the wrist and hand, this condition happens when the nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist becomes compressed due to constant motions.
- Tendinitis: This is an inflammation of tendons, which are the thick cords that attach muscles to bones and can occur in various parts of the body, such as the elbow (tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow) or the shoulder (rotator cuff tendinitis).
- Cubital tunnel syndrome: Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, this affects the ulnar nerve, which runs along the inside of the elbow. It can lead to numbness and weakness in the ring and little fingers.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: This condition can result from compression of nerves and blood vessels in the area between the neck and the shoulder. It can cause pain, tingling and weakness in the arm and hand.
- Neck and upper back strain: Prolonged hunching over a desk or piece of machinery and repetitive movements can lead to RSIs in the neck and upper back, causing pain, stiffness and a reduced range of motion.
- Lower back strain: Repetitive lifting or bending can lead to strain and injury in the lower back, resulting in pain and reduced mobility.
Injured workers need to understand that repetitive strain injuries are not just a normal part of aging – no matter what their employers may say. Repetitive activities on the job can aggravate or exacerbate pre-existing conditions, such as fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t covered under workers’ compensation. If you have met resistance with your workers’ comp claim for an RSI, it may be time to seek legal guidance.