Top Ways to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries

Michael Galvan

Repetitive stress injuries, or Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD’s), are one of the most common work-related injuries and they affect thousands of workers each year. These injuries are the result of repetitive motions, muscle overuse, mechanical compression, bad posture, vibrations, and static body positions.

Most CTD conditions are regional (isolated to one area) and affect joints and tendons. These soft tissue injuries gradually develop over consecutive work cycles. This process can often take months or years. Cumulative Trauma Disorders are typically the result of repetitive forceful motion. Employees who work in factories or warehouses, or act as part of an assembly line are most at risk of suffering from these work related injuries.

Some of the most common types of repetitive stress injuries include:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-This condition is caused by a pinched median nerve in the wrist, typically resulting from long periods of exposure to vibration or repeated forceful pressure. Symptoms may include tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand.

Tendonitis- Tendons are the bands of tissue that link muscles to bones. Tendonitis occurs when tendons become irritated or inflamed from overuse.

Bursitis- Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones, tendons and muscles. They can become inflamed near joints due to pressure and repetitive movement.

Herniated disk(s)- Discs are the cushions between the bones in your spine. These spongy discs can become damaged and rupture, causing pain and numbness.

Synovitis – The synovial membrane lines certain joins and can become inflamed. This causes tenderness, pain, swelling and hard lumps.

The majority of these repetitive motion injuries occur in the upper body. There are several treatment options for patients diagnosed with a CTD. These treatments may involve medication, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery. Doctors may also recommend limited-duty for an employee, or a complete change in his or her roles and responsibilities.

It’s important to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place. The best way to do this is to focus on ergonomics. Ergonomics is a specialty that examines how people interact with their work environment. Whether it’s typing or lifting heavy materials, there are often inefficiencies or repetitive motions that can result in long term injuries. Companies that utilize ergonomics are looking to reduce unnecessary stress on their employees.

An ergonomic evaluation can help employers examine a worksite, and identify risk factors that might lead to the onset of CTD’s. A specialist will visit and provide recommendations to reduce injury rates. These proposed modifications can be effective for reducing employer healthcare premiums and bills. Employers can also utilize ergonomic education training sessions. These courses are typically short and can be specifically designed around a specific work environment. The ergonomic specialist will tailor their presentation to educate supervisors, employees, or both.

Another type of assessment that can help companies prevent repetitive stress injuries is a functional job site analysis.  An expert is brought in to examine injury data and look for patterns. They will also perform testing that measures the physical stresses of a job. This allows the consultant to create a pre-employment physical that insures whoever a company hires can physically handle their assigned tasks.

By taking early action, employers can help keep their workforce safe, and reduce workers compensation costs. Healthy employees are more productive and they miss less time away from work.