There are many ways in which a worker can be injured at work and not all of them are the result of a specific incident or accident. In this article, we will provide you with a brief explanation of the difference between specific injuries and cumulative trauma (CT) injuries along with a few examples to help drive home the difference.
Specific injuries are pretty much self-explanatory––they are injuries that are the result of a specific incident or accident. For example, let’s assume a grocery store worker is lifting a heavy package when suddenly he feel a sudden pain in his shoulder caused by the weight of the package. The pain in his shoulder is a direct result of lifting this heavy package, and is what we call a specific injury. Specific injuries are typically easy to notice and to be diagnosed and are therefore the easiest to treat.
Cumulative Trauma Injuries
Cumulative trauma injuries are less obvious than specific injuries and often go untreated for long periods of time. By way of example, let’s assume we have an office worker who sits at the computer 8 hours per day watching the screen and typing. Let also assume that over the past 5 years, this office worker has been developing pain in her neck, lower back, and/or in her wrists.
The first thing that may cross her mind is that she is getting too old for the job, but it is not her age that is the problem, it’s her job which has begun to affect her body orthopedically, causing pain in her back, muscles, and joints where there would normally be none.
These are the types of things that happen when you have developed a repetitive motion injury. Repetitive motion injuries are the result of constantly repeating the same motion again and again over a great length of time. It puts strain on your joints and muscles and eventually you begin to feel pain and soreness in the affected parts of your body. Repetitive motion injuries are but one type of cumulative trauma injury.
Another type of cumulative trauma injury is hearing loss. Let’s say you work in a factory on an assembly line and next to you is a large machine that produces a loud noise all day long. After months, years, or even decades working next to this machine, you may go home one day and realize that you are experiencing some hearing loss or that your hearing is not as sharp as it has been in the past.
Again, you may think that you are just growing hard of hearing as you get older and may not realize that the hearing loss you are experiencing is work-related. But in fact, you’re losing your hearing because you have been working next to this loud machine every day, all day long, for years.
Going back to the office worker scenario above, she may also begin to experience problems with her vision from looking at the computer screen all day. She may eventually need a prescription for eyeglasses. But her vision may continue to deteriorate and she may need a stronger prescription every year. This is called vision loss which is another form of cumulative trauma injury.
The point we are making is that work causes all kinds of injuries and they don’t have to be related to a specific accident or incident. There are many types of cumulative injuries that you can experience due to your work environment. They may develop over years or decades, but are no less work-related than a specific injury that you may suffer due to work related accident.
Contact A New Jersey Workers Compensation Attorney
If you are experiencing any symptoms that could possibly be work-related, then they probably are work-related and you should seek immediate treatment and workers’ compensation benefits from your employer to pay for it. For help with a work-related injury in New Jersey, contact an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney.