Understanding Workers' Compensation for Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are among the most common workplace injuries. Cashiers, healthcare workers, construction workers, and many other professionals experience a high rate of RSIs, sometimes called repetitive motion injuries. They’re painful and inconvenient for the workers who suffer from them and can take a financial toll on employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector in 2019. RSIs are tricky because you may not initially notice that you are developing one. They often develop slowly and gradually and are associated with subtle symptoms such as tingling and numbness.
Generally, workers are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits as long as their RSI occurred on the job. But it is up to the employee to navigate the workers’ comp system and prove that work-related tasks were at the root their injury.
What Is a Repetitive Stress Injury?
There are over 100 ligaments and tendons in the human hand. When we bend a finger to type or a thumb to text, we don’t think about the small movement of one or more tendons that are also moving. After thousands of similar movements every day, the system necessary for movement can begin to malfunction.
Repeated, untreated symptoms that limit your movement could cause you to miss work. RSIs can impact muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons in other parts of the body that are overused throughout the day. Eventually, you’ll begin to notice some of the symptoms of an RSI every time you perform the same task:
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers, hands, or feet
- Tenderness and pain ranging from a dull ache to throbbing pain
- Loss of strength or coordination
- Loss of flexibility
- Reduced range of motion
If you act soon enough, you might be able to resolve the problem by stretching regularly and making adjustments to your work environment.
RSIs and Workers’ Comp in Illinois
RSIs are generally compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, as long as the employee demonstrates that the injury was caused by explicit aspects of their job. If certain conditions are met, a worker will be entitled to:
- Benefits for Lost Wages: Workers recovering from an RSI can receive two-thirds of their average weekly wages while they are unable to work.
- Coverage for Medical Bills: Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers the cost of all medically necessary expenses, including physical and occupational therapy.
If you believe your injury is work-related, it’s important to follow workers’ comp guidelines while seeking treatment. The first step is reporting the injury to your employer. You’ll need to establish that the injury is related to your job to obtain benefits. Also, see a doctor as soon as possible to confirm your injury. If you have to take time off work to recover, reporting the RSI to your employer beforehand will help establish a timeline for your claim.
Common Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress or repetitive motion injuries are common among operators of heavy equipment and vibrating hand tools, as well as office workers who maneuver a mouse all day. These RSIs often develop on the job and require some form of treatment:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Perhaps the best-known RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome results from pressure on the nerves and tendons used to flex your fingers. The carpal tunnel is a narrow area surrounded by bones and ligaments near your palm. Swelling in the tunnel can cause numbness, pain, and weakness. It affects 4-10 million Americans and is usually treatable. A tingling sensation in your hand or wrist while performing work duties is a sign you have this condition.
Bursitis. Bursae are like fluid-filled sacs that cushion your tendons and bones in large joints such as hips, elbows, and knees. Bursitis occurs in the joint area when these sacs become irritated and inflamed. It can happen when a joint such as a shoulder or a knee is used repeatedly to operate a piece of machinery.
Tendinitis. This injury is another RSI you may experience if a repetitive motion causes one of your tendons to become inflamed. A tendon is like a cord that connects your muscle to your bone. It can become inflamed and tender in the area near a joint where it is attached to the muscle, requiring time and rest to heal.
Comprehensive Care for RSIs
Through a comprehensive care program, employees can recover from RSIs more quickly than at a traditional facility because they are treated at the onset of their injury. Injured employees who come to MidAmerica Orthopaedics are seen immediately by the appropriate orthopaedic specialists and receive prompt access to evaluations and diagnoses. This arrangement makes therapy and other follow-up care more efficient and effective. Our on-site services often enable patients to return to work sooner, lowering the cost of their workers’ compensation claims.
Our comprehensive care program is ideal for treating RSIs and other job-related injuries. If you’re an employer seeking the best alternative for both you and your employees, reach out to us at MidAmerica Orthopaedics. A specialist will answer your questions about workers comp claims and RSI treatment at our facility.