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Warning signs: Repetitive stress injuries

Routine can be a healthy part of our day-to-day lives. Many people find security and peace in structure. Especially in the workforce, repetition is essential to completing tasks and meeting goals. But when the occasional project turns to a daily grind, our bodies start to feel the strain.

What is a repetitive stress injury?

Repetitive stress injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a particular part of the body. Over time, repeating the same movements again and again can cause pain. The result is inflammation, swelling, muscle strain or tissue damage.

These types of injuries are common in the workplace. If you work on a computer every day, tapping against the keyboard continually could aggravate your fingers. If you are a construction worker, using power tools often could also introduce swelling and pain in your hands. Modern technology - phones, laptops, iPods - are yet another threat to fingers, hands and wrists.

Warning signs

Repetitive stress injuries are different than other common workplace injuries. It's not an accident where injury happens quickly and unexpectedly. These injuries can take days, months or years to surface. There are several symptoms to look out for, which includes:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Soreness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Clicking or popping sensation
  • Loss of sensation

Symptoms will occur around the affected area. It's important to consult a doctor if you notice these warning signs. You want to catch the injury early so the problem doesn't worsen.

Preventing and treating

Federal laws and guidelines require employers to look out for their employees. But even so, injuries can still occur, despite good conditioning and posture. Preventing repetitive stress injuries is difficult, especially when a job requires physical activity.

Basic care for repetitive stress injuries includes icing, splinting, elevation and rest. Depending on the injury, this might not be enough. Work-related injuries could require a therapy program to speed up recovery. At this point, your employer's insurance should supply benefits. Since some injuries can prevent you from returning to work for a period of time, it's also important to be compensated for those damages.

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