Guide to Workplace Repetitive Stress Injuries in Massachusetts
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are a category of musculoskeletal disorders resulting from prolonged and repetitive movements or overuse of specific body parts. These injuries often develop gradually over time and are characterized by pain, inflammation, and reduced functionality in the affected areas. RSIs commonly affect individuals engaged in occupations or activities requiring repetitive motions, such as typing, assembly line work, or prolonged computer use.
Fortunately, if you incurred a repetitive stress injury during the course of your employment, then you may be entitled to compensation for the harm you suffered. After assessing your case, the team at our law firm can explain the appropriate path to payment and guide you through each step of the legal process.
Seek support from our Boston Workers’ Compensation attorneys at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan by dialing (617) 925-6407.
What is The Most Common Repetitive Stress Injury?
The most common repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. This compression leads to pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers. Accordingly, this form of repetitive strain injury is especially common among individuals engaged in repetitive hand and wrist movements.
CTS can place a significant strain on victims’ earning capacity. Fortunately, employees who suffer from CTS can pursue payment with help from our Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation attorneys.
Other Examples of Repetitive Stress Injuries that Can Occur in Massachusetts
In addition to CTS, there are many other types of repetitive stress injuries that may be suffered by workers in Massachusetts. For example, any of the following can occur:
Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons, is another common repetitive stress injury. It occurs when repetitive motions strain the tendons, leading to pain and swelling. Tendonitis can affect various body parts, such as the wrist, elbow, or shoulder, depending on the nature of the repetitive activities performed.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Repetitive overhead activities, like those performed in construction or certain sports, can lead to rotator cuff injuries. These injuries involve damage to the muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, causing pain and limited range of motion. Individuals engaged in repetitive lifting or reaching motions are particularly susceptible.
Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the sheath surrounding a tendon, often caused by repetitive motion. It commonly affects the hands and wrists, resulting in pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected joint. Occupations requiring continuous gripping or fine motor skills, like using tools or instruments, can contribute to the development of tenosynovitis.
Epicondylitis (Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow)
Epicondylitis, commonly known as Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow, involves inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. These injuries result from repetitive gripping and wrist movements, such as those seen in racquet sports or golf. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the outer (Tennis Elbow) or inner (Golfer’s Elbow) side of the elbow.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. Repetitive hand and wrist movements, like lifting or gripping, can lead to irritation and inflammation of the tendons, causing pain and swelling. This condition is common among individuals involved in activities that require repetitive thumb and wrist motions.
Repetitive stress on a joint can lead to Bursitis, the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion the joints. Occupations or activities involving repetitive kneeling, as seen in carpet installation or gardening, can contribute to the development of bursitis. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and limited joint movement.
Trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, is characterized by the snapping or locking of a finger when bent or straightened. Repetitive gripping actions, common in certain occupational settings, can cause inflammation of the tendons in the finger, leading to this condition. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and difficulty bending or straightening the affected finger.
Can a Repetitive Strain Injury Cause Permanent Damages?
Repetitive strain injuries have the potential to cause permanent damage if left untreated or unmanaged. When individuals continue to engage in repetitive motions without addressing the underlying issues, it can lead to chronic pain, impaired functionality, and even permanent damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves.
Timely intervention, ergonomic adjustments, and proper treatment can mitigate the risk of permanent damage associated with repetitive strain injuries. Further, if you sustained permanent damage from such an injury, then you may be entitled to substantial compensation for the harm you sustained. Our Cambridge Workers’ Compensation lawyers can help fight for the maximum amount of benefits available to you.
What Qualifies as Repetitive Motion?
Repetitive motion refers to the continuous, repeated performance of a specific action or set of actions over time. In the context of workplace injuries, repetitive motion often involves tasks that require consistent, repeated movements of specific body parts, such as the hands, wrists, arms, or shoulders. As previously mentioned, typing on a keyboard, assembly line work, or using tools with repetitive actions are common examples of tasks that qualify as repetitive motion and can contribute to the development of repetitive stress injuries.
Common Types of Employees Who Sustain Repetitive Stress Injuries in Massachusetts
Nearly any type of employee can sustain a repetitive stress injury. Still, there are certain occupations that may involve a higher risk of such injuries. For instance, the following are common types of workers who sustain repetitive stress injuries in Massachusetts:
Office workers, particularly those who spend extensive hours typing on keyboards and using computer mice, are prone to repetitive stress injuries. Conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis can develop because of the repetitive hand and wrist movements associated with tasks such as typing, clicking, and using a mouse.
Assembly Line Workers
Individuals working on assembly lines often engage in repetitive motions, performing the same tasks repeatedly for extended periods. This constant repetition can lead to various repetitive stress injuries, including Tendonitis, as they frequently use specific muscles and joints in their work.
Construction workers, involved in tasks such as repetitive lifting, carrying, and operating heavy machinery, are susceptible to repetitive stress injuries. Conditions like rotator cuff injuries and tenosynovitis can arise from the consistent strain on their shoulders, wrists, and hands.
Healthcare professionals, including nurses and surgeons, may develop repetitive stress injuries because of the repetitive nature of their tasks. Prolonged periods of precise movements, such as repetitive hand and wrist motions during surgeries or constant use of medical instruments, can contribute to conditions like tenosynovitis or trigger finger.
Retail workers, especially those responsible for tasks like scanning items at the checkout counter or stocking shelves, engage in repetitive movements that can lead to injuries like Tendonitis. The constant use of certain muscles and joints without adequate breaks can contribute to the development of these injuries.
Workers in manufacturing settings often perform repetitive tasks involving machinery and tools. This can lead to a higher risk of repetitive stress injuries, such as Epicondylitis (Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow) or Bursitis, due to the consistent use of specific muscle groups.
Musicians, particularly instrumentalists, may develop repetitive stress injuries because of the constant use of specific hand and finger movements. Conditions like Tendonitis and De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis can affect musicians who repeatedly play instruments, especially those that require intricate finger motions.
Hair stylists and barbers frequently use repetitive motions while cutting and styling hair. The consistent use of scissors and other tools can lead to conditions like Tendonitis or Trigger Finger due to the repetitive gripping and hand movements involved in their work.
Data Entry Clerks
Data entry clerks who spend significant hours typing on keyboards and using computer mice are at risk of developing repetitive stress injuries. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis are common among this group because of the continuous and repetitive use of their hands and wrists.
What Are The Consequences of Repetitive Motion Injuries?
The consequences of repetitive motion injuries can be diverse and impactful. These injuries can lead to physical symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. Additionally, individuals may experience decreased productivity and work efficiency because of the discomfort associated with RSIs. If left unaddressed, the long-term consequences may include chronic pain, functional limitations, and, in severe cases, permanent disability. Employers may also face increased absenteeism and reduced morale among workers dealing with the consequences of repetitive motion injuries. It is crucial for both employers and employees to recognize and address these consequences through preventive measures and early intervention strategies.
Common Causes of Workplace Repetitive Stress Injuries in Massachusetts
As previously discussed, there are many different types of tasks that can produce repetitive stress injuries. For instance, the following are all common sources of such injuries in Massachusetts:
Repetitive Motion Tasks
Workplace repetitive stress injuries often stem from continuous, repetitive motion tasks. Employees engaged in tasks requiring repeated movements, such as typing, assembly line work, or data entry, may develop injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. These conditions manifest gradually, and workers may not realize the strain until symptoms become pronounced.
Inadequate ergonomic setups contribute significantly to the development of repetitive stress injuries. When workstations lack proper ergonomics, employees are exposed to prolonged discomfort and strain. Poorly designed chairs, improperly positioned computer monitors, or inadequate keyboard placement can result in musculoskeletal problems. Employers must prioritize ergonomic design to minimize the risk of these injuries.
Insufficient Breaks and Rest Periods
The absence of regular breaks and rest periods can exacerbate the likelihood of workplace repetitive stress injuries. Continuous engagement in repetitive tasks without sufficient intervals for rest deprives muscles and tendons of the necessary recovery time. Employers should implement structured break schedules to allow employees the opportunity to rest and stretch, reducing the strain caused by prolonged periods of repetitive motion.
Lack of Training and Awareness
A lack of proper training and awareness regarding ergonomics and injury prevention is another contributing factor to workplace repetitive stress injuries. Employees may not be educated on the importance of maintaining proper posture or utilizing ergonomic tools. Comprehensive training programs can empower workers to adopt healthier work habits and recognize the early signs of stress injuries.
High Workload and Production Pressure
Excessive workload and production pressure can force employees to work at an unsustainable pace, leading to an increased risk of repetitive stress injuries. The demand for higher productivity may result in employees neglecting proper ergonomic practices or overexerting themselves. Employers should strike a balance between productivity goals and ensuring a healthy work environment to mitigate the risk of stress-related injuries.
Inadequate Equipment Maintenance
Inadequate maintenance of workplace equipment, such as poorly calibrated machinery or malfunctioning tools, can contribute to the development of repetitive stress injuries. When equipment does not function correctly, employees may need to exert more force or engage in awkward postures to compensate. Regular equipment maintenance is essential to prevent unnecessary strain on workers.
Environmental factors within the workplace can also play a role in the occurrence of repetitive stress injuries. Factors like extreme temperatures, inadequate lighting, or cramped workspaces can contribute to discomfort and physical strain. Employers must address these environmental issues to create a conducive and safe working environment for their employees.
Lack of Early Intervention Programs
The absence of early intervention programs is a notable gap in preventing workplace repetitive stress injuries. Employers should implement proactive measures, such as regular health assessments and ergonomics reviews, to identify potential issues before they escalate. Early intervention can help employees address emerging problems and prevent the development of more severe injuries.
What Compensation Can You Recover for a Workplace Repetitive Stress Injury in Massachusetts?
If you sustained a repetitive stress injury during the course of your employment, then you may be entitled to benefits through Workers’ Compensation. These benefits offer payment for medical bills and lost income that was incurred as a result of your on-the-job injury. Generally, the amount of benefits you may obtain are determined by the severity of your injury and its impact on your earning capacity.
Additionally, there is a chance you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit after suffering a workplace repetitive stress injury. For instance, if your injury was caused by poorly manufactured ergonomic equipment, then you may be able to sue the at-fault manufacturer for the injury you sustained.
Personal injury lawsuits allow for the recovery of certain damages that are not available through Workers’ Compensation claims such as payment for physical pain and emotional suffering. However, it is rare that circumstances will allow for a personal injury case to be filed for a workplace repetitive stress injury. If you sustained such an injury, then guidance from our legal team can be crucial when evaluating the range of legal options available to you.
Call Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers for Help with Your Claim in Massachusetts
Get assistance from our Methuen Workers’ Compensation attorneys at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan by dialing (617) 925-6407.