Reducing Repetitive Stress Injuries at Work

According to recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, up to 32 percent of all workers’ injuries or illnesses reported in 2014 were related to musculoskeletal disorders. Many of these injuries can be caused from repetitive movements, such as the type workers on a production line would make or from workers doing physically demanding work. What is surprising to hear is that many of the workers who reported these injuries sit at a desk all day. One would think that sitting at a desk all day at work would reduce the risk of becoming injured on the job, but that is no longer the case.

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What are MSDs?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries to the body’s soft tissues and nerves. Soft tissues include:

  • Muscles
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Joints
  • Cartilage

These types of injuries develop gradually over time, sometimes weeks or over several years. Examples of musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Sciatica
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Repetitive Stress Injuries

MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome or neck and shoulder pain can be considered repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). Repetitive movements such as those made while typing on a computer keyboard or continued awkward or static postures from improper seating can lead to these injuries. RSIs are covered Illinois workers’ compensation laws. However, if it is a pre-existing injury, the insurance company may deny it. In this case, it may be necessary to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to contest the denial.

When typing on a keyboard, the tendons in the wrists go back and forth. Because they are parallel to one another, they rub against each other creating friction and fatigue. This then leads to inflammation, which compresses on nerves in the wrist causing pain, tingling or numbness. The likelihood of developing carpal tunnel may be reduced by:

  • Taking breaks to rest or stretch wrists
  • Holding wrists in a natural position where they are not resting against a desk when typing
  • Using a padded wrist rest for both the keyboard and mouse

Neck and shoulder pain can be caused from:

  • Cradling a phone between the ear and shoulder
  • Type of chair used
  • Placement of computer monitor

Using a headset can prevent pain from cradling a phone if a phone is used frequently. Poor posture is often a result of sitting in the wrong type of chair. Using a chair that has adjustable arm rests will help support the arms and take tension off the shoulders. When sitting at a desk, the computer should be directly in front, not at an angle.