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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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Workers’ Compensation for Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Office

people working at computers in busy modern office

Work injuries tend to be associated with dangerous fields such as construction and oil field work. However, even the most seemingly innocuous workplaces can have their hazards—even offices. Office workers who spend all or most of their day sitting stationary at a computer performing repetitive tasks are sometimes diagnosed with repetitive strain injury (RSI). Also known as repetitive stress injury, RSI can affect those who perform monotonous tasks such as typing or filing all day long. Our Albuquerque office injury lawyer explains the risks of repetitive strain injuries and how to receive workers’ compensation if you’re diagnosed with RSI.

Causes & Effects of Repetitive Strain Injuries

RSIs date back to at least the 17th century when cases of “milkmaid’s arm” were regularly reported, though the phenomenon likely goes much further back than that. Today, nearly two million workers in offices and elsewhere report musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by RSI and other cumulative trauma every year.

RSIs affect muscles, soft tissue, and/or nerves. Broadly, there are two types—musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendonitis, and “diffuse RSI.” Diffuse RSI can be hard to diagnose—it is a relatively new term for a type of injury that is still being studied.

Common RSIs include:

  • Arthritis: Though often associated with aging, arthritis is more accurately caused by regular wear and tear, meaning the condition can be accelerated by repetitive motions. The main symptoms are joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Commonly associated with computer-heavy work, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the wrist’s median nerve becomes compressed. If left untreated it can cause severe pain and damage to your wrist and fingers.
  • Computer neck: Chronic neck and back pain caused by sitting hunched over at a computer for long periods.
  • Diffuse RSI: The defining characteristic of a diffuse RSI is nerve damage from repetitive motion. This manifests as pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, and cramps. The cause of diffuse RSI is often difficult to pinpoint and is mainly identified by the presence of the symptoms and a lack of any other known cause.
  • Tendonitis: Tendonitis is caused by overuse of tendons, which causes them to swell.
  • Writer’s Cramp: Also known as Dystonia, Writer’s Cramp is common in not only its namesake but in musicians and office workers as well. It typically affects the hands and causes involuntary tremors and muscle spasms.

Signs that you may have an RSI include:

  • Tenderness and/or pain in the affected area
  • Tingling and/or numbness, especially in the hands or feet
  • The inability to grip things or to form a fist
  • Loss of strength in limbs
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Reduced range of motion

Most RSIs in the office affect worker’s backs, necks, hands, and wrists. If you experience discomfort in any of these areas after working in an awkward position and/or performing a repetitive motion, it is probably a good time to see a doctor.

How to Receive Workers’ Comp for RSI

It can be difficult to pinpoint the source of a work injury like RSI because they often develop slowly over a long period of time. Talking to your doctor about your condition should help you identify the cause as well as provide medical evidence that will back up your workers’ compensation claim. You should also notify your boss at the office of your condition in writing as soon as you receive a diagnosis.

The types of workers' compensation benefits that may be awarded for repetitive stress injuries include:

  • Medical bills: Any medical expenses related to your treatment for as long as you need it should be paid.
  • Temporary disability: This will cover your lost wages if your injury forces you to take time off work.
  • Permanent disability: Same as the above, except for situations in which an injury is so severe recovery is not an option.
  • Mileage reimbursement: You may be able to get reimbursed for injury-related travel costs, such as driving to and from the doctor’s office or to a physical therapy appointment.

The above benefits will depend on several factors, including the severity of the injury and the recovery time. While most RSIs are treatable with a short amount of rest and care, as well as a few ergonomic changes at work, others can cause long-term or even permanent damage. This is why it’s best to talk to your doctor as soon as you feel pain or any other symptom that might suggest an RSI.

Have you been diagnosed with an RSI you believe was caused by work? Our Albuquerque office injury lawyer can discuss your case with you over a free consultation and determine if you’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. We can also help you file or appeal a claim. Contact us today!