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Repetitive Strain Injuries & Musculoskeletal Disorders

March 30, 2016
By mjdadmin

Repetitive strain injuries are a common complaint made to Chicago workers’ comp attorneys. One of the most insidious types of injuries, the damage repetitive strain injuries cause accumulates over time. Thus, it may be months, years, or even decades since the onset of the injury before the adverse effects become apparent.

(Article continues below Infographic)

Repetitive strain injuries infographic

Data shows that workers file nearly $20 billion a year in claims for repetitive strain injuries. Studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that nearly two-thirds of these injuries occur to the upper body. The most commonly affected areas are the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. This is because these body parts are responsible for doing the lifting and lowering, pushing and pulling, and typing and twisting.

Musculoskeletal disorders are among the most common workers’ compensation claims. They affect roughly 7% of the total US adult population. They also account for a significant number of physician visits and hospital overnights.

Musculoskeletal disorders at a glance:

  • 14% of physician visits
  • 19% of hospital overnights
  • 62% of patients with musculoskeletal disorders have limited mobility/range of movement.
  • 47% of all reported disorders are work related.
  • 33% of workers’ compensation claims are on musculoskeletal disorders.

Overexertion a Leading Cause of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Hospitals

Nurses, ambulance workers, and other hospital personal are at considerable risk for repetitive strain injuries. The pushing, pulling, and maneuvering of patients day in and day out takes a considerable toll within these professions. It is estimated that repeated overexertion impacts:

  • 76 per 10,000 hospital workers
  • 132 per 10,000 EMTs
  • Nationally, the average for all professions is just 38 per 10,000 workers.

Chicago workers’ comp attorneys know that these rates are increasing as fewer and fewer healthcare workers are required to take care of increasing patient loads. Moreover, as obesity rates climb, these injuries are becoming more and more serious as the amount of weight hospital workers are required to maneuver increases. The impact is already clear and health care workers suffer the most lost time of all the professions; roughly 11,960 hours for general musculoskeletal pain, and 4,700 hours for serious back pain.

Treating Musculoskeletal Injuries

Americans are diagnosed with musculoskeletal injuries through a variety of methods. These include:

  • 29% at hospitals
  • 16% at their physician’s office
  • 14% at an outpatient facility
  • 29% within the Emergency Room

For all injured workers, the diagnosis of having a musculoskeletal injury is the first step towards applying for, and receiving compensation for the injury. As with all injuries, the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin and the recovery process can start. Moreover, the sooner treatment begins, the greater the likelihood that a patient can recover from their injury and return to work.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is the most common nerve compression disorder in America. It impacts roughly 1% of the overall population, but it impacts 5% of those still within the workforce. Moreover, Caucasians are at greatest risk, followed by Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians. Carpal tunnel can be treated with surgery, and every year roughly 260,000 people undergo surgery to correct the condition.

  • On average, carpal tunnel syndrome results in 31 lost work days per individual impacted.
  • Roughly 66% of carpal tunnel injuries are work related.
  • 50% of cashiers in the food industry experience some degree of carpal tunnel during their career.
  • 25% of individuals who work at a computer throughout the day are impacted.
  • 24% of individuals who work in manufacturing will develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • In 2010, it was estimated that carpal tunnel syndrome impacted roughly 3.1 million working Americans. This was roughly 8% of the total US workforce.
  • Women are more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome than men.

While surgery can help, earlier studies have estimated that only 23% of individuals who undergo surgery can return to their profession. Moreover, it’s estimated that 36% of patients will require long-term medical treatment.

Risk Factors for Musculoskeletal disorders and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Repetitive strain injuries can be caused by the following patterns. Over time, these patterns affect the way bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints function:

  • Continually standing in a fixed position, either standing, kneeling, or sitting.
  • Repetitive movements such as typing, lifting, pushing, or pulling.
  • Frequent force applied by either the hand, wrist, arm, or leg.
  • An overloaded work schedule that does not allow sufficient recovery between the resumption of tasks.

Symptoms of repetitive strain injuries typically occur in stages. In the early stage, injured workers may feel aches and pains, as well as a general sense of fatigue. As it progresses to the intermediate state, workers may feel their exhaustion getting worse, and their ability to perform the same tasks will decline. In later stages, these same symptoms will become so severe that the worker will be unable to continue performing their duties.