A "repetitive stress injury" refers to a broad array of health conditions resulting from repeating the same motion over and over again. In most cases, tissue is damaged, a tendon or bursa sac is inflamed, or a muscle is strained. If you've ever heard someone mention their carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow, they're talking about a repetitive stress injury.
What Are the Symptoms?
Workers tend to develop and notice repetitive stress injuries over time. Unlike a broken bone or concussion, there's usually not one particular event an employee can point to and say, "That's when the injury happened!"
According to Cleveland Clinic the affected area will gradually suffer from:
- Reduced flexibility
Who Is at Risk?
Workers who spend a lot of time fixed in physically uncomfortable positions or simply repeating the same movements are at risk for these injuries. One common example is when a typist (or anyone who spends prolonged hours at a keyboard) develops carpal tunnel syndrome, which is when pressure on the wrist's median nerve leads to discomfort and weakness in the area.
Computer users aren't the only ones at risk though. People in occupations ranging from pipefitting and janitorial work, to professional sports and nursing, can develop repetitive stress injuries, especially when they have to maintain an uncomfortable posture for long periods of time.
OSHA suggests that many of these problems can be addressed through workplace ergonomics. An effective approach includes:
- Properly training employees
- Identifying uncomfortable workstations that may lead to injuries
- Implementing solutions
- Assessing progress
Of course, all of this requires employers to listen to their employees' concerns, suggestions, and general feedback. Sometimes solutions are as simple as shorter desks or taller chairs. Other times, more extensive changes need to be made to the workplace. Either way, failure to listen to employees' concerns often leads to workers' comp cases.