Repetitive Stress Injuries and the Workers That Get Them

Posted By Thomas F. Martin, PLC || 3-Mar-2017

Repetitive stress (or strain) injuries, or RSIs, are the most common occupational health problem in the United States; they cost more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation claims. And while outdoor workers typically have a higher risk of accidental injury (logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country), many white-collar occupations expose people to traumatic repetitive movements that could lead to nerve or musculoskeletal damage. Here are a few RSIs and the jobs that might increase your risk of experiencing them.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are around 849,000 new cases of carpel tunnel syndrome every year. The carpal tunnel is the place in the wrist where nerves and tendons pass from the arm to the hand. One of the nerves there, the median nerve, carries signals from the brain to the fingers and hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is pinched by swollen tendons in the wrist. Repetitive movements that create stress for the tendons will commonly cause this problem. Many people in different occupations experience this type of stress, including:

  • Tailors
  • Farmers
  • Assembly-line workers
  • Mechanics
  • Cashiers
  • Musicians
  • Administrative support workers

Assembly workers are 3 times more likely to develop the syndrome than anyone else, as they commonly use vibrating hand tools, which can increase chances of tendon irritation. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in fingers, wrists, or arms. Early treatment can usually take care of the problem, but severe cases could require surgery.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, or epicondylitis, is a condition causing pain on the outside of the arm, where the forearm meets the elbow. Tiny tears in the tendons that connect muscle to bone cause inflammation and could put stress on the rest of your arm. Epicondylitis may make it painful to lift and grip objects, and if untreated, it could become chronic and extremely painful. Some employees susceptible to the development of tennis elbow are:

  • Tree-cutters
  • Painters
  • Carpenters
  • Musicians (such as fiddlers, violinists, and pianists)
  • Plumbers
  • Cooks
  • Butchers

This condition can be treated with exercise, physical therapy, or anti-inflammatory medication, but severe cases might need Botox injections, ultrasonic treatments, or surgery.


While tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis, you can develop this condition in any tendon in your body. Most often, tendonitis shows up in the shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist, and heel, parts of the body we constantly use on a day-to-day basis. Repetitive movements that irritate the tendons can cause tears, and continuing repetition of the same motion can make those tears wider or prevent them from healing at all. Rotator cuff tendonitis is one of the most common conditions and will feel like shoulder pain. Jobs that most often lead to rotator cuff tendonitis are:

  • Carpenters
  • Painters
  • Welders
  • Athletes (such as swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players)

Symptoms of tendonitis include: pain, weak joints, and swollen, warm flesh around the area. If you catch the symptoms early, tendonitis will often heal after a few days of rest, application of ice packs, and anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Advil). More severe cases will need a brace, sling, or splint to keep the affected area from moving. Surgery is rarely needed but can happen in cases where no other treatment seems to work.

Back Injuries

Back pain is a common symptom for many workers, particularly those who lift heavy objects on a regular basis. Repetitive bending and twisting in any job could lead to exacerbation of the nerves and tendons, causing tingling, numbness, or soreness in the area. Some workers who might be more prone to developing back strain are:

  • Truckers
  • Construction workers
  • Nurses
  • Nursing home caretakers
  • Warehouse workers
  • Dentists
  • Surgeons
  • Landscapers/gardeners
  • Cashiers
  • Bus drivers

Because our spines are the column of strength we depend on for movement and rotating, it’s easy to forget how to lift with our legs, rather than with our backs. Back pain can also be one of the most difficult RSIs to deal with, as we use our spine to stand and sit.

If you’re experiencing pain on the job, don’t wait until your injury becomes debilitating. File a workers’ compensation claim so you can rest the problem area. If you’d like assistance, or if the insurance company is giving you a hard time, contact our Orange County workers’ comp attorneys today. Let us get you the compensation you deserve.

Categories: Workers Compensation
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