Written by attorney Mitchell Scott Sexner

What is a worker's comp repetitive stress injury?

A repetitive stress injury is damage that occurs to the body from repeated use or motion. It happens when a worker does the same thing over and over again as part of their job. Some of the jobs that tend to lead to a repetitive stress injury include meat packers, office workers, secretaries, musicians, word processing employees, grocery checkers / baggers, factory workers, data entry positions, mechanics, and assembly-line workers. One of the most common repetitive stress injuries is called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS. Many workers suffer from this syndrome and it occurs when the worker performs the same motion or motions over and over again with his or her hands. It’s a common injury in those jobs requiring typing, pinching or gripping while the employee’s wrist is bent. It also can lead to other hand, arm or wrist injuries if it is not properly treated.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) has symptoms which may include 1) greater numbness or pain during night rather than day, 2) weakness in the worker’s thumb, 3) forearm, palm or wrist pain, 4) numbness or tingling of the forearm, wrist, hands, or fingers, in particular the middle fingers or thumb, 5) greater pain the more the wrist or hands are used, or 6) difficulty when gripping objects.

Many different injuries resulting from repetitive stress can occur in addition to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Some of the other repetitive stress, overuse syndrome and nerve injuries that may lead to a successful workers compensation claim include:

  • De Quervain’s disease / syndrome
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Ulnar nerve compression of the elbow
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
  • Bursitis (inflammation and pain of the bursa)
  • Tendonitis (inflammation and pain of the tendon)
  • (RSD) Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Shoulder injuries which include the Rotator Cuff
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow or elbow tendonitis)
  • Focal dystonia (writer’s cramp)
  • Trigger finger
  • (CRPS) Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Appropriate treatment for a repetitive stress injury such as CTS may vary depending upon the severity of the injury. Conservative therapy often begins with anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprophen. The doctor may also recommend a wrist brace to keep the wrist immobile since the injury is generally a result of repeated movements of the bent wrist. This helps stabilize the worker’s wrist into a neutral position to assist in the reduction of pain and numbness. The medical professional may also suggest cortisone shots, but sometimes none of these options work and a surgery to release the tension and compression on the Carpal Tunnel is suggested. Speak to your doctor about options.

Additional resources provided by the author

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