Repetitive motion injuries, also known as repetitive stress injuries, cumulative trauma disorder or overuse syndrome include a variety of painful conditions and injuries to tendons, nerves, muscles and soft tissue. In the world of workers’ compensation law, these injuries and conditions are usually suffered in the upper limbs, or arms, of the injured worker.
These conditions are usually caused by performing repetitive tasks, overuse of a body part, working with vibrating machinery or tools, performing tasks that call for forceful exertions, pressing and turning machinery or against hard surfaces, and working in awkward positions throughout a work day.
4 Repetitive Motion Injuries Suffered Most by Pennsylvania Workers
1. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) – Carpal tunnel syndrome affects approximately 5 million U.S. workers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is weakness, tingling and numbness in your hand or hands as a result of pressure or squeezing of the median nerve at the wrist. This nerve controls the palm side of the thumb and fingers (but not the pinkie finger). Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. A different nerve gives feeling to the little finger.
Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Some carpal tunnel sufferers say their fingers feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent. The symptoms often first appear in one or both hands during the night, since many people sleep with flexed wrists. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome may wake up feeling the need to "shake out" the hand or wrist. As symptoms worsen, people might feel tingling during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. In chronic and/or untreated cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb may waste away. Some people are unable to tell between hot and cold by touch.
2. Epicondylitis (Tennis elbow) – Epicondylitis, or Tennis elbow is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse of the body part. Epicondylitis is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse — repeating the same motions again and again. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.
There are many treatment options for tennis elbow. In most cases, treatment involves a team approach. Primary doctors, physical therapists, and, in some cases, surgeons work together to provide the most effective care.
The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually. In most cases, the pain begins as mild and slowly worsens over weeks and months. There is usually no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms. Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow and a weakening grip strength
The symptoms are often worsened with forearm activity, such as holding work tools, turning a wrench, or even something as simple as shaking hands. Your dominant arm is most often affected; however both arms can be affected.
3. Bursitis - Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs — called bursae — that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed.
The most common locations for bursitis are in the shoulder, elbow and hip. But you can also have bursitis by your knee, heel and the base of your big toe. Bursitis often occurs near joints that perform frequent repetitive motion.
Treatment typically involves resting the affected joint and protecting it from further trauma. In most cases, bursitis pain goes away within a few weeks with proper treatment, but recurrent flare-ups of bursitis are common.
The most common symptom of bursitis is pain. The pain may build up gradually or be sudden and severe. Severe loss of motion in the shoulder -- called "adhesive capsulitis" or frozen shoulder syndrome - can also result from the immobility and pain associated with shoulder bursitis.
4. Tendinitis - Tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle.
Signs and symptoms of tendinitis tend to occur at the point where a tendon attaches to a bone and typically include:Pain often described as a dull ache, especially when moving the affected limb or joint; Tenderness and mild swelling.
Several workplace factors that can lead to a worker to suffer from tendinitis include
- Repetitive motion
- Overhead reaching with frequency
- Vibrating tools or machinery
- Awkward position during work tasks
Treatment will vary depending on your precise diagnosis, but can include the use of heat and ice to the affected area, the use of splints or elastic supports. If these conservative treatments do not help, the injured worker may have a course of steroid injections, and ultimately surgical intervention may be required.
Insurance companies often try to deny or ignore repetitive stress injuries because they know that they can be a challenge for the injured worker to prove. Don't let the insurance company bully you into not pursuing your rights. Contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney today if you have suffered a work-related repetitive stress injury.
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