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Workers Compensation: What is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Whether you’ve been at the same job for decades or recently started a new position here in Iowa, you are always at risk for injury on the job. Especially if you work in a high-risk industry such as construction or agriculture, the chances of becoming involved in a workplace accident may be greater than if you work in an office behind a desk all day.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for injury in an office; in fact, you may be more at risk than construction workers for a repetitive strain injury. If you develop an RSI, you may not be immediately aware of it because such injuries tend to develop (and worsen) over time. If your job requires you to repeat a particular body motion or stand or sit in an awkward posture for long periods of time, it’s a good idea to learn more about RSI.

RSI was identified in the 1700s

A physician identified repetitive strain injury as a workplace risk after observing Italian industrial workers in the 1700s. Nowadays, those most at risk are people who work in an office or perform manual labor. If you use electronic devices frequently, you’re also at more of a risk for RSI than those who only rarely use such devices.

RSI typically includes injury to muscles, tendons, bones or nerves. You can injure more than one body part at a time. Emotional, mental or physical stress can worsen symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

If you put in a lot of hours on a particular day at work and wind up feeling fatigued or sore at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have suffered an RSI, although it also doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t.

Symptoms often include muscle soreness, throbbing pain, numbness or tingling in extremities, and inflammation. If your wrist, elbow or other body part is red and sore, it’s definitely worth seeking a medical examination to rule out RSI.

Workplace duties that increase risk of RSI

The duties you carry out in the normal course of a typical work day may place you at risk for developing an RSI. Especially if you use a jackhammer, for instance, or some other mechanized tool, the forceful, fast, repetitive motion can wreak havoc on your body.

Carry heavy loads, standing or sitting in awkward positions, working in cold temperatures, and many other issues make you vulnerable for contracting an RSI.

Recovery doesn’t happen overnight

The pain and discomfort associated with RSI can be severe, even debilitating. You may need long-term medical care, medication or surgery to help you recover. Sadly, an RSI can be so severe that it could prevent you from returning to the workplace, either temporarily or permanently.

You may be able to file a worker’s compensation claim to collect benefits when you suffer an injury in the workplace. Navigating the process is often stressful, particularly if an insurance agency tries to deny your claim. It’s helpful to build a strong support network from the start so that guidance and support are readily available as needed.