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What is a “repetitive stress injury”?

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Conversations regarding workers’ compensation injuries often involve discussions of what are commonly known as “repetitive stress injuries.” There are multiple different types of jobs that could cause these issues, and the symptoms may manifest in a few different areas. So, what exactly is a repetitive stress injury, and how do you know if you have one?

A repetitive stress injury is also sometimes referred to as a “repetitive strain injury.” They occur when a person performs some sort of repetitive motion over a period of time. Some examples of jobs where this might take place are assembly line workers, supermarket cashiers or administrative assistants who type a lot. Also, any job that requires regular grasping, such as a mechanic who has to grasp tools, could cause problems. The damage from these movements happens as the muscles, tendons and nerves are broken down over a long period of time. It is not likely that someone who only works on an assembly line for two weeks would suffer a repetitive stress injury – it is caused by long durations of repetitive motions.

These injuries usually manifest with painful symptoms, such as swelling, stiffness, soreness and decreased range of motion in certain joints. Complaints are often regarding hands and fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck. Common medical diagnoses are carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, tendonitis and bursitis. Occasionally, injured workers can find great relief with physical therapy alone, but others do require surgical intervention. Injured workers also may need to pursue workers’ compensation benefits.