How Serious Are Repetitive Stress Injuries?
In most cases, repetitive stress injuries are temporary, and workers can expect to make a full recovery. However, each case is unique, and some repetitive stress injuries can have a long-term impact.
What is a Repetitive Stress Injury?
A repetitive stress injury (RSI) is a condition where pain and other symptoms occur in an area of the body that has done repetitive tasks (often the arms, wrists, or hands). Repetitive stress means strain related to actions which are frequently repeated. Unlike a normal strain after a sudden injury, an RSI can happen gradually and symptoms can persist well beyond the time it would take for symptoms from a normal strain to stop.
Common Causes of Repetitive Stress Injuries
In addition to overusing a muscle and performing repetitive tasks, other factors that contribute to RSIs include the following:
- Using vibrating equipment
- Adopting an awkward posture
- Holding a static posture for excessive durations
- Performing forceful movements
- Using equipment that is poorly designed
- A poorly organized work environment or one that is not ergonomically sound
- Failing to take adequate breaks to allow the muscles to rest
- Heavy lifting or lifting items that are awkwardly shaped or have a disproportionate weight distribution
Work environments that place a high precedence on fast production can increase the risk of RSIs. For example, if a worker is part of an assembly line and must consistently and quickly lean across the conveyor belt, there is an increased risk of an RSI to the muscles in their back, arms, or neck.
Symptoms of a Repetitive Stress Injury
The symptoms will depend on the exact type of RSI and the severity, but most cases include some or all of the following:
- General pain
- Throbbing or an achy sensation
- Numbness, tingling, pins and needles
- Soreness or burning sensation
- Weakness or lack of muscular endurance
- Clumsiness and loss of coordination
The symptoms usually appear gradually and a worker may first notice them only when you’re performing a repetitive job task.
Workers’ Compensation for Repetitive Stress Injuries
If you suffer a repetitive stress injury on the job, you are entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits under Pennsylvania law. Here are some examples of the available benefits:
Medical Costs for Immediate Treatment
- Services received by physicians and other health care providers, including chiropractors.
- Reasonable surgical and medical services needed.
- Hospitalizations if necessary.
- Prescription medications and medical supplies.
- Orthopedic appliances and supplies.
Approximately two-thirds of your salary for total disability if the RSI lasts more than seven calendar days. The weekly benefit amount cannot exceed the maximum of $995 per week, and you entitled to them until:
- You medically recover without any restrictions.
- Return to full, pre-injury employment
- You are medically able to perform other available employment without a loss in income.
However, your employer’s workers’ comp insurer may still be responsible for your ongoing medical care even if you return to work. Contact a lawyer to discuss your options on how to receive this compensation.
If your doctor rates you as partially disabled or you are working but earning less due to your RSI, you can receive two-thirds of the wage difference for up to 500 weeks (about nine years).
If your RSI results in a permanent disability confirmed by a doctor with a rating of 50% or higher, you will receive wage loss benefits for life.