Workplace injuries are commonly associated with catastrophic accidents that result in lifelong injuries, disability or death, such as slip and fall accidents, falls from heights, cuts, burns and road accidents.
However, the majority of workplace injuries are not the result of a single isolated event. Most develop over time and involve repetitive motion that can cause strain to muscles and tendons and result in pain in the neck, back, joints and fingers. These types of injuries are referred to as Repetitive Motion Injuries (RSIs)
Most work-related repetitive motion injuries affect the upper extremities—your neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands, and are referred to by names such as:
- Tendinitis – which results from overuse and stress on the tendons of your wrists and arms
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – which results from stress on the median nerve in your wrist and causes pain, numbness or tingling in your thumbs or fingers.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome – which results from activities such as carrying heavy objects and repetitive overhead motions that compress the blood vessels and cause pain in your shoulders, back, and neck.
Repetitive Motion Injuries (RSIs) are a frequent occurrence amongst workers who are engaged in repetitive types of work. If you work in an office and are constantly typing on your computer, doing data entry, or IT work, or if you work on a production line doing repetitive wrapping, boxing or lifting, or whenever your job duties require you to make repetitive motions with your upper extremities, wrists, and hands, you may be at high risk of a developing a repetitive motion injury.
Symptoms of repetitive motion injuries include:
- Pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands
- Numbness and tingling in the ring and small fingers or fingertips
- Weakness of the hand
- Pain in the wrist
- Pain in the elbow
- Neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Pain in the tendons in the shoulder, arm or knees
Often, workers don’t relate these symptoms to the work that are doing. They may believe that the symptoms are related to something they did at home, or perhaps a neurological problem that has nothing to with the work they perform. So they often blow it off, for lack of a better term, and go on about their job as usual.
However, the biggest issue that people have with repetitive motion injuries is not reporting them in time. Under New Jersey workers’ compensation law, if you do not report your injury in a timely fashion, you will lose your eligibility to receive benefits.
When you notice, for example, that you are having pain in your wrists or hands, numbness or tingling in your fingers, or that your hands are going to sleep when they are sitting in your lap, please report the problem to your supervisor or employer. As far as workers’ compensation is concerned, you can do yourself no harm by doing this.
If you are worried that reporting the injury to your supervisor or employer will put your job in jeopardy, you should understand that your repetitive motion injury is not going to get any better by continuing to perform the work that caused it, and without getting any medical treatment. In fact, it may get even worse and you may end up in so much pain that you can no longer physically perform the job. So, you really don’t have much of a choice other than to report the injury and to seek the proper medical care.
Sometimes, workers compensation doctors will look for any reason they can find to say that your repetitive motion injury is not work related. But, you should not let this happen. If you are engaged in repetitive work, there is a high likelihood that the pain, numbness, and discomfort you feel is symptomatic of a repetitive motion injury. Even a fall or accident at work where you snap your wrists in some way can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. So, don’t let your employer or their doctor try to get away with saying your injuries are not work related.
Another thing you need to be mindful of, depending on the type of work you do, is that sometimes the numbness, tingling or the pain that is running down your arm might be coming from your neck. If you do repetitive work, you might have developed carpal tunnel syndrome, but you may also have developed neck issues.
So, you want to pay close attention to where the pain is stemming from. Is it stemming from your wrist and going down to your hand? Or is it stemming from your neck and radiating downward.
The doctor who treats you will be asking a lot of questions, so you should make it a point to answer those questions for yourself, prior to seeing him. Furthermore, you should make it your business to report your injury as soon as you understand that your are manifesting symptoms of an RSI.
For more information on compensation for repetitive motion injuries under workers’ compensation, or any other workers’ compensation issue, consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. A New Jersey workers compensation attorney can let you know what you need to do to preserve your eligibility to receive workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey.