What Is a Repetitive Stress Injury?

A repetitive stress injury is a medical condition that is the result of performing the same motion hundreds or thousands of times. Eventually, parts of your body will break down under this strain.

Repetitive stress injuries may happen in the workplace if your job requires you to perform the same motions over and over throughout your workday. Typing for hours every day at the office can cause swelling in the wrist that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Other repeated motions can cause repetitive stress injuries in the hands, elbows, shoulders, and other areas of the body.

You may qualify for workers’ compensation for a repetitive motion injury that is the result of your job.

How to Tell If You May Have a Repetitive Motion Injury

One may typically notice the symptoms of a repetitive stress injury when performing the motions that caused the injury. In other words, if typing for an excessive amount of time every day at work caused your carpal tunnel syndrome, you are likely to notice discomfort when you are typing while on the job.

Symptoms of a repetitive stress injury can cause:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Numbness and tingling
  • A sensation similar to electrical shocks
  • Weakness
  • Dropping objects
  • Inability to sleep, due to the discomfort
  • Stiffness in the affected area, particularly in the morning
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Aching, similar to arthritis

Tendonitis

Tendonitis is more common than people realize because we tend to refer to the specific types of tendonitis when talking about them, rather than using the more general term of tendonitis. Two of the more common forms of tendonitis that can be repetitive stress injuries are trigger finger and tennis elbow.     

Trigger finger. Make a tight fist, then relax your hand. If one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position, you might have trigger finger. This condition can happen in any of your fingers, but is most common in the index or middle finger. Trigger finger can be painful. In severe cases, the finger gets locked and cannot straighten.

If your job involves extensive typing or gripping actions, you could develop trigger finger. The repetitive motions narrow the area that surrounds the tendon in the finger, impeding it from releasing and straightening smoothly.

Tennis elbow. Bending and straightening your arm excessively can cause a painful condition called tennis elbow. The stress on the tendons of your elbow causes the pain, which usually runs from the bony bump on the outside of your elbow, down your forearm, and sometimes to your wrist.

According to the Mayo Clinic, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and butchers are at higher risk of developing tennis elbow because of the repeated arm motions their jobs require. If your arm hurts or is too weak to turn a doorknob, grasp an item, hold onto a coffee cup, or shake hands, you may have tennis elbow.

Bursitis

Another painful repetitive motion injury is bursitis, in which the bursae (small sacs containing fluid) develop inflammation. The purpose of the bursae is to cushion your muscles, bones, and tendons near your joints. Any joint that experiences excessive repetitive stresses can develop bursitis. The most common joints where bursitis occurs are the elbow, shoulder, and hip.

The joint pain can be debilitating. Your joint can become so stiff that you cannot move it. You might experience sharp or shooting pain. The joint can swell a surprising amount. The area can also turn red, bruise or have a rash.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If your thumb and fingers (but not your little finger) feel numb and tingly, your hand is weak or you experience shooting pains or “electrical shocks” in your wrist and hand, you might be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive motions like typing for hours every day at work can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist, next to your palm. The nerve that controls your thumb and some of your fingers travels through this passageway on its journey down your arm into your hand. If repetitive motions have caused inflammation in the carpal tunnel, the swelling can compress the median nerve and cause the hallmark symptoms.

Consequences of Untreated Repetitive Motion Injuries

Without appropriate treatment, a repetitive stress injury can result in permanent damage to your tendons, nerves, bursae, or joints. You could lose function and endure chronic pain. Eventually, you could be unable to maintain gainful employment or perform the daily tasks necessary for independent living.

If you believe your repetitive stress injury may be related to your job, you should contact your physician and a lawyer before your injury goes untreated for too long. A lawyer will help guide you in understanding your rights, if you may be eligible for workers’ compensation, and if you should file a claim to receive work injury benefits.

Who to Call for Legal Help for a Repetitive Stress Injury

If you suffer from a repetitive motion injury and you think it might be related to your job, call the office of S. Burke Law. We can help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Call us today at 404-842-7838 for your free consultation.