January 8, 2024
personal injury

Regardless of the physical demands of your job, there’s a risk of incurring a repetitive strain injury (RSI) if your work involves repetitive motions or maintaining the same posture every day. While desk or office jobs may not expose you to risks like heavy machinery or falling objects, they can still lead to injuries caused by continuous strain on certain body parts.

RSIs affect hundreds of thousands of workers across the U.S. every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the rate of musculoskeletal disorders (RSIs are a primary cause) was 27.2 per 10,000 full-time workers, resulting in an average of 12 days of missed work per injured worker.

Fortunately, in Alabama, workers who suffer from repetitive stress injuries due to their job duties are typically entitled to compensation, provided they can demonstrate that their work responsibilities are the cause of their injury.

What are RSIs?

RSIs are caused by overuse of the muscles, tendons, and nerves. Predominantly found in office environments, these injuries are often the result of repetitive tasks, awkward posture, or prolonged use of computers and office equipment.

Common causes of RSIs in white-collar workplaces include:

  • Repetitive motion: Tasks that involve repeated use of the same muscles, such as typing or using a mouse, can lead to continuous strain. This can cause muscle and tendon fatigue, ultimately leading to painful injury.
  • Poor ergonomics: An improperly set up workstation can contribute to the development of RSIs. This includes chairs at the wrong height, monitors placed too high or too low, or keyboards and mice that force the hands and wrists into unnatural positions.
  • Prolonged sitting: Sitting in the same position for extended periods can lead to muscle stiffness and reduced circulation, increasing the risk of RSIs. A 2017 study found that prolonged sitting results in musculoskeletal disorders in up to 53.5% of office workers.
  • Inadequate breaks: Performing the same tasks without variation and not taking regular breaks to stretch and rest can exacerbate the strain on muscles and tendons.
  • Poor posture: Slouching or leaning forward for prolonged periods can strain the neck, shoulders, and back. Research suggests that around 41% of computer users experience upper back pain, while 38% feel discomfort in their shoulders due to constant static posture.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, eye strain, and tendinitis are just a few examples of injuries that can result from RSIs that silently affect countless office workers.

The median number of days lost from work for carpal tunnel syndrome is 25; that’s longer than any other workplace-related disorder besides bone fractures.  Unfortunately, RSIs develop gradually, leading to severe long-term consequences if unaddressed.

Early Warning Signs of an RSI

Recognizing the early warning signs of an RSI is crucial in preventing more serious injury. One of the first signs is a persistent dull ache or discomfort in the muscles, tendons, or joints. This pain is often experienced in the wrists, elbows, neck, or back and is typically associated with typing, clicking a mouse, or another repetitive motion.

Another early warning sign is the feeling of stiffness or tightness in the affected area, especially after a period of rest or first thing in the morning. There might also be tingling, numbness, or a pins and needles sensation, particularly in the hands and fingers. These symptoms suggest nerve involvement, which can be found in conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

A decrease in coordination or dexterity, such as clumsiness or difficulty performing tasks that were once easy, can also be a red flag. Fatigue in the muscles after repetitive activity should not be ignored, even if it seems minor. If you notice these symptoms, take immediate action to mitigate them and prevent more severe injuries.

Legal Options if You Suspect an RSI at Work

If your RSI is work-related, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and a portion of your lost wages. There are several vital steps to follow to successfully file a workers’ comp claim:

  • Report the injury to your employer. The first step is to report your injury or symptoms to your employer. Alabama Code 25-5-78 requires you to notify your employer within five days of becoming aware of the injury.
  • Seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can provide a diagnosis, recommend treatment, and confirm that the injury is work-related. Under Alabama workers’ comp law, it is your employer who chooses the physician for your medical examination.
  • File a claim. After reporting your injury, your employer should file a First Report of Injury Form (WCC Form 2) detailing the injury and your wages. If they don’t, contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney immediately. Informing your employer does not alone constitute an official workers’ compensation claim. You have a two-year period to file this claim; failing to do so within this timeframe will cause it to become void.
  • The claim investigation begins. Once the insurance company receives the WCC Form 2, they will investigate your claim. This process involves an investigator reaching out to both you and your employer and examining your social media profiles for any evidence that might contradict your claim, such as engaging in activities that suggest your injury is not as severe as reported.
  • Dispute a denial, if necessary. If the insurance company denies your claim, you still have options to obtain compensation. While Alabama does not have a court where you can appeal denied claims, you can contact an Alabama personal injury lawyer and file a civil lawsuit with the Alabama district court.

Get Workers’ Compensation for Repetitive Strain Injuries

RSIs due to ongoing stress on a body part can impair job performance. They may necessitate time off or medical attention to handle associated pain that prevents you from doing your job. Without timely intervention, these injuries risk worsening, possibly causing chronic pain, reduced function, or permanent damage.

You might be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer from a repetitive strain injury due to workplace conditions or while performing job-related tasks.

Contact The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation for help protecting your rights. 

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