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What every office worker should know about repetitive stress injuries

Repetitive stress injuries (or RSIs) make it difficult for workers to complete their jobs without experiencing high levels of pain. These injuries account for approximately one-third of all time away from work. Since they often develop gradually before escalating, many individuals do not recognize their injuries as stemming from repetitive motions performed at work until much later. Learn to recognize the symptoms of common RSIs and find out what medical care you are entitled to by law.

Common repetitive stress injuries

There are hundreds of repetitive stress injuries that can afflict office workers. Some of the most common injuries include:

  • Carpal tunnel
  • Trigger finger
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Knee pain including ACL or MCL tears
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Nerve entrapment
  • De Quervain's syndrome (swelling of the tendons leading to the thumb)

Symptoms of RSI include pain, weakness, stiffness, muscular cramps, numbness and a pins-and-needles sensation. Workers who are most susceptible to RSIs include those with desk jobs as well as those who stand or walk on the job, such as mail carriers or farm workers.

What to do if you have symptoms of an RSI

If you suspect you may have an RSI, preventative care can stabilize your condition and prevent further pain. One of the best ways to alleviate RSI pain is to adopt proper posture, take frequent breaks from work and stretch your body. Simply by changing your posture and stretching after your shift, you can improve your daily wellness.

Adjust your workstation to reduce strain. If you sit all day, use a chair that offers lumbar support and set up your workstation to avoid straining your neck. If you stand, place a rubber mat beneath your work area and wear supportive shoes.

Protecting your legal rights

If you believe you have an RSI, you should inform your employer right away. Federal health and safety regulations require employers to fix unhealthy working conditions that lead to repetitive strain injuries. By speaking out, you can help others who may be at risk for the same injuries you now suffer.

Legally, your employer may be required to pay for medical care related to an RSI, if it was caused by work. If your workplace contests that the RSI was work-related, a lawyer can help you initiate a lawsuit and obtain the benefits that are rightfully yours.

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