Common Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace

Repetitive Stress Injuries on the Job

There are a number of tasks associated with common jobs that may not seem dangerous–typing on the computer, answering the phone, scanning barcodes, working an assembly line, standing at a chalkboard, and other similar tasks that we do day in and day out at as part of our jobs. However, over time, these repeated movements can lead to soft tissue or nerve damage. This type of work-related injury is often times called a repetitive stress injury, or in the medical community as cumulative trauma disorders.

Repetitive stress injuries are believed to account for as much as 60-75% percent of all workplace injuries. It is also believed that one in eight employees currently working will experience repetitive stress injuries in the workplace at some point and almost all workers past retirement age have some degree of repetitive stress injury that they may not even know about.


Repetitive Stress Injuries: A Rising Problem in the Workforce

“Musculoskeletal conditions, in general, are the second greatest cause of disability globally and have increased 45% worldwide, according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study. …Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs)… are now considered a leading cause of long-term pain and physical disability worldwide, with diagnoses including tendinopathies, nerve compression syndromes, and muscular and joint disorders” (Repetitive Stress Pathology).

Depending on the severity of the damage, a repetitive stress injury can impact your ability to perform your job and may even require surgery. Employers should take steps to identify possible RSI risks in their workplace, but unfortunately, not all of them do, and thousands of employees suffer because of this negligence each and every year.

What are Receptive Stress Injuries, Anyway?

A repetitive stress injury is the name given to a range of various injuries all of which are the result of cumulative small-scale injuries and trauma that has been sustained by the body’s soft tissues or tendons. Repetitive stress injuries in the workplace are very common due to the monotonous workload and habits of many jobs today. Repeated movements, such as sawing and cutting, writing, painting, and assembly line work can lead to worsening of underlying conditions, the development of new symptoms, and new injuries and instances of RSI. Symptoms of a repetitive stress injury include pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, stiffness, weakness, and sensitivity to cold or heat.

Common Examples of Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace

The most common repetitive stress injuries involve trauma to the upper extremities, including the wrists, elbows, and hands. A repeated turning of the head can also lead to repetitive stress injuries to the neck and shoulders, while constant lifting can cause trauma to the back. Here are the five most common conditions caused by repetitive stress injuries in the workplace:


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is among the most common of all the nerve-related conditions. It is a condition that is generally caused by excessive and repetitive pressure on the median nerve. This is the major nerve that runs down the arm and through the wrist; it is responsible for controlling the thumb and the first few fingers as well as helping control fine motor skills with the hands. Repeated hand and wrist movements can damage the nerve and lead to issues of pain, numbness, and weakness. These symptoms are usually diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome and usually clear up when the pressure is removed and the nerve is given time to heal though symptoms can linger permanently.


Bursitis is another common condition that is brought on and often worsened into a painful condition. This condition is one that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints of the body. When these fluid areas get infected or inflamed from overuse and injury they can lead to pinched nerves, loss of mobility, pain or numbness, and swollen joints. It often affects the knees, shoulders, elbows, and hips and is caused by overuse. This example of repetitive stress injuries in the workplace is usually brought on by repeated lifting and bending, carrying heavy loads, and not following proper safety procedures at work. It is a condition that is slow to heal as well.


Tendonitis is another example of the repetitive stress injuries we see in the workplace and is a condition that deals with painful and excessive swelling in and around the tendons of the body. It is most commonly seen in the joint and areas of greatest mobility such as the hands, elbows, and shoulders. As tendons are overused, they become swollen, which can lead to tears and inflammation. Repeated movements and use, often combined with heavy loads or impact trauma, are the cause of tendonitis. The pain and weakness associated with it can be improved with braces and supports and a change in routine to avoid the aggravating habits and movements.

De Quervain’s Disease

De Quervain’s Disease is a little-known condition that most individuals outside the medical community have never even heard of.  It pertains to inflammation of the tunnel that houses the tendons and nerves that control the movement and flexibility of the thumb. When these nerves and tendons are damaged or inflamed, it most commonly causes pain and swelling at the base of the thumb. In advanced cases of the condition, pain and numbness can radiate up into the wrist and up the lower arm as far as the elbow and cause the joint to lock up. This condition can affect a worker’s ability to grip objects. The only real long-term treatment is to remove the conditions that cause the injury in the first place.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The final example of RSI on this list is a condition known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is a condition that is caused by compression of the bundle of sensitive nerves that run through the space between the lower neck and first rib. It can cause muscle spasms, locking of the neck and shoulder, headaches, and pain or numbness radiating from the area into the head, down the arms to the fingers, and down the back. Poor posture, bending over, heavy lifting, twisting, and having arms over your head are all common postures and movements that can lead to this disorder. It can be treated by improving posture, practicing safe lifting, and avoiding stressful repetitive movements.


Contact the Pain Relief Institute Today

To learn more about repetitive stress injuries in the workplace and what you can do to avoid them as well as to find the treatment you need to put an end to the pain and suffering, contact the Pain Relief Institute today! Our pain management clinic is here to help so call now and schedule your free consultation appointment!