A repetitive stress injury (RSI) is “an injury that occurs due to recurrent overuse or improper use of any part of the musculoskeletal system.” In the workplace, these injuries occur when a worker uses a part of their body in a repetitive manner such as typing on keyboard, working on an assembly line, musician, construction worker or basically any job that requires the same motion time and time again.
The most common type of RSI is tendonitis which is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle. Just about any tendon can be injured by a repetitive motion which is part of many work-related activities:
- Cleaning house
- Throwing and pitching
Types of Repetitive Stress Injuries
Not all RSI are tendonitis as this type of injury can occur in many different ways and occupations where the worker uses the same motion over time. Others that are common are:
- Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa sac which is in areas where the muscle or tendons will glide over the sac.
- Cubital tunnel syndrome: Happens when the ulnar nerve is pinched along the elbows edge due to repetitive motion.
- DeQuervain’s Syndrome: Inflammation of the tunnel that contains the two tendons that help move the thumb. Also called washerwoman’s sprain but can be caused by many work-related activities that include gripping such as in gardening.
- Dupuytren’s Contracture: A person is unable to fully straighten their fingers (usually the ring and pinky finger) because of the accumulation of scar tissue brought on by repetitive motion.
- Dystonia (Writers Cramp): Involuntary muscle spasms in the hand or other places. Common among writers, musicians and office workers who’s job has them repeating the same function.
- Epicondylitis (Golfer’s/Tennis Elbow): Inflammation of the tendons that connect to the bone cause by repeated strain on the forearm muscles that extend down the arms to the wrist and fingers.
- Gamekeepers/Skiers Thumb: Strain to the ulnar collateral ligament from repetitive use of the thumbs used in a gripping motion.
- Raynaud’s Disease: Blood supply to an extremity is interrupted due to a repetitive strain.
- Tenosynovitis: Swelling of the tendons and/or the sheath that covers the tendons caused by repetitive use or motion of the affected body part.
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Caused by a compression of the nerves or blood vessels going the thoracic outlet (space between your collarbone and first rib) and causes pain in the arm, shoulder or neck.
Will I get Compensation for a Repetitive Stress Injury?
In a California Worker’s compensation claim, the injured worker has the burden to prove the injury happened “out of and in the normal course of business.” The injury must have happened when the employee was on the work site doing work-related activities.
This helps establish between injuries that come from hobbies or recreation and not from a work-related activity. When it comes to an RSI, the insurance company will attempt to blame the injury on a number of personal activities of the worker.
Time of Injury
The problem with an RSI is that because the injury didn’t happen all at once, the time of injury and the exact cause is difficult to ascertain which is critical in establishing a worker-related injury. This gives the insurance company something to challenge when an RSI is claimed.
However, because medical doctors recognize that a RSI happens over time and not one lone injury incident, California workers’ compensation law allows for a category of injury called the cumulative (repetitive) injury and the “time” is considered when the injury was first noticed by the employee.
The worker still has to prove it was work-related, but it allows the worker to combat the insurance companies claims that since these injuries take time, the time of injury is too vague to establish.
What do I do if I Have an RSI?
Even though the law recognizes a RSI as a distinct type of Injury, this doesn’t stop the insurance company from challenging that is was related to your job. You need to talk to an attorney that knows how to establish that a CTI is related to your work.
This way, you can be given money for treatment, missed time from work and other benefits allowed under a workers’ compensation claim. If you are suffering a cumulative trauma injury, call the Law Office of Alice A. Strömbom who is experienced in repetitive injuries and can help you get the compensation you deserve for your work-related injury.