When workers suffer musculoskeletal injuries due to work-related activities or an accident, they may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Musculoskeletal injuries affect the ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and muscles. These types of injuries can cause severe pain and loss of strength or use. Treatment for muscle injuries often includes surgical procedures, physical therapy, pain management, and other costly solutions. In some cases, these injuries result in permanent disability. Approximately 33% of all work injuries reported are associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
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Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace
Repetitive stress injuries are muscle problems that are caused by the repetition of a specific action or task. Common repetitive stress injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and chronic pain
- Trigger finger
- Rotator cuff injuries and chronic knee problems
- Aggravation of a previous condition
Many repetitive stress injuries are attributed to work-related activities such as computer use, barcode scanning, assembly line work, fixed position work, sawing, and extensive use of power tools. If a repetitive stress injury is caused or exacerbated by work-related activities, the injured employee is generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation claims for repetitive stress injuries are often more difficult to prove than other work-related injuries, however, because the injuries accumulate over time, rather than as a result of a single workplace accident.
Tendonitis Impingement Syndrome and Chronic Muscle Pain
Tendonitis impingement syndrome and chronic muscle pain are common work-related repetitive stress injuries. Tendonitis impingement syndrome occurs when the rotator cuff tendon and surrounding tissues become pinched by forward arm movements, leading to painful inflammation. Common symptoms of tendonitis impingement syndrome include muscle pain in the shoulder, muscle weakness, and popping sounds.
Tendonitis impingement syndrome and muscle pain can occur as a result of assembly line work, sawing, construction work, extensive use of power tools, and heavy repetitive lifting.
De Quervain’s Tendonitis
De Quervain’s tendonitis – also known as tenosynovitis or thumb synovitis – is a common work-related repetitive stress injury that causes pain in and around the base of the thumb. The pain may be localized or radiate down the thumb to the forearm, and it can be made worse by forceful grasping or twisting of the wrist, as well as excessive pinching of the thumb to the index finger.
De Quervain’s tendonitis is caused by irritation to the abductor muscle tendon at the base of the thumb. While it is most often a repetitive stress injury, it can also be caused by unusual hand positioning or hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy.
Trigger finger is a repetitive stress injury that can be caused by a repeated or forceful use of the finger or thumb. Trigger finger may also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, or any activity in which a person is required to maintain a firm grip for a long time. Trigger finger is often suffered by farmers, construction workers, industrial workers, and musicians since these jobs often require the repeated and constant use of finger and thumb movements.
Some of the most common symptoms of trigger finger are soreness at the base of the finger or thumb and a painful clicking when bending or straightening the finger. In some cases, the finger or thumb may lock into a bent or straight position as the condition worsens. Trigger finger recovery time varies depending on the severity of the condition and choice of treatment. When trigger finger is the result of work-related activities, the injured employee is generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
A workers’ compensation attorney can assist those who wish to pursue a worker’s compensation claim for a repetitive trauma injury. Lawyers can help you obtain the appropriate medical treatment and assemble the necessary documentation to support a claim. Moreover, a skilled attorney will ensure that a claim is filed in a timely manner in accordance with the applicable statutes of limitations, and that injured workers comply with the applicable employer notice requirements, as well.
Sprains, Strains, and Tears
Sprains, muscle strains and tears in the workplace often result from overexertion from heavy lifting, twisting or turning too quickly, and excessive physical activity. Knees, shoulders, and backs are especially susceptible to sprains, strains, and tears. While some injuries of this type are temporary and require little or no treatment, others can be severe, requiring extensive medical treatment and recovery time. Common conditions that result from workplace activities include:
Inside the shoulder joint is a cuff of cartilage, called the labrum, which forms a cup for the arm bone to move in. The labrum makes the shoulder joint more stable and allows the shoulder to make a wide range of movements, but it is also fairly susceptible to injury, including labral tears.
Symptoms of a labral tear include:
- Pain or aching sensation in the shoulder joint
- Catching of the shoulder with movement
- Pain with specific activities
Labral tears are often sustained on the job. In fact, labral tears, fractures, rotator cuff injuries, and impingements are among the most common workplace shoulder injuries. If an employee suffers a labral tear as a result of work-related activities, he or she is generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The meniscus, a rubbery disc that cushions the knee, keeps the knee steady by balancing weight across the knee. A meniscus tear is often caused by twisting or turning quickly, or heavy lifting. Treatment of a meniscus tear depends on the type of tear, the location of the tear, and the severity of the tear. Treatment may include rest, icing, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.
- A minor meniscus tear can result in slight pain and swelling, which usually subsides within a couple of weeks.
- Moderate meniscus tears involve pain, swelling, and sharp pain when squatting or twisting.
- With a severe meniscus tear, the knee will catch, pop, or lock and it may be difficult to straighten the knee.
Meniscus tears can happen in any job, but they occur more often in factory/warehouse jobs and shipping jobs. If a meniscus tear is the result of a workplace accident, the victim may be able to recover worker’s compensation benefits.
A scapula strain is any damage to the muscles or tendon attached to bone in the scapular area of the shoulder, which is also known as the shoulder blade. Scapula strains are rather common and are usually the result of excessive physical activity.
- Scapula strains can cause radiating pain from the back of the shoulder that may considerably restrict shoulder movement.
- Scapula strains and other shoulder injuries are usually diagnosed by an x-ray or MRI scan of the shoulder blade.
- Treatment usually includes adequate rest and the avoidance of physical activities, which may prevent a worker with a scapula strain from working during the recovery process.
Scapula strains and other shoulder injuries often occur in jobs that require manual lifting and the operation of heavy machinery, such as factory/warehouse jobs and shipping jobs. If a scapula strain occurs on the job, the injured worker may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits.
A hernia is an injury in which an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak area in the muscle or surrounding connective tissue. Hernias often occur in the inner groin (inguinal), outer groin (femoral), belly button, upper stomach (hiatal), or at the site of an incision.
- Hernias often appear as a lump in the groin or abdomen. The lump may or may not be able to be pushed back in.
- Pain often accompanies a hernia. The pain typically intensifies withstanding, coughing, or performing strenuous activity.
- In more serious cases, bowel obstruction or strangulation of the affected area may occur.
Hernias are common workplace injuries among active workers and employees whose tasks include heavy liftings, such as construction workers, factory workers, lawn care workers, and farmers. When a work-related hernia occurs, victims will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits based on a portion of their salary.