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RSI: The Unseen Workplace Danger

Repetitive stress injuries, or RSI, are a growing category of workplace injuries. These injuries occur over a long period of time, and often go untreated because the deterioration of function is gradual. Algonquin worker comp lawyers are a valuable tool in fighting for compensation for RSI.


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Infographic, The Unseen Workplace Danger


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Categorizing RSI

RSI are typically categorized in one of two ways, based on the part of the body that is affected.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders--The Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed approximately one-third of all workplace injuries to musculoskeletal injuries in 2014. These injuries occur to muscles, joints, or tendons, and results in painful swelling and inflammation.
  • Nerve injuries--The second category of RSI are nerve injuries. This category is much smaller, and can be linked to specific activities that are directly related to one industry or activity.

Common RSI

Carpal Tunnel (nerve injury)

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that develops in workers whose work requires extensive use of their hands and wrists. The syndrome occurs when the body places pressure on the median nerve in the hand, typically because of damage to or deterioration of tissues around the nerve.

Workers most at risk of Carpal Tunnel syndrome bend, twist, or flex their plamar carpal ligament throughout the workday, such as:


  • Cooks

  • Electricians

  • Housekeepers

  • Secretaries/Data entry specialists


Bursitis (musculoskeletal disorder)

Bursitis is a condition caused by the inflammation of the bursa, or sacs of lubricating fluid, that lie between bones and other materials in the body. The bursa allows smooth movement between the materials. When the bursa becomes inflamed, patients experience a gradual increase in pain and a loss of movement long the joint.

Bursitis is most common in workers who overexert themselves or use the poor posture or form to perform their jobs. Workers who are most affected include:


  • Warehouse workers

  • Stockers at retail locations

  • Truck drivers

  • Movers


Tendinitis (musculoskeletal disorder)

Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, usually in the knee, elbow, or shoulder. The condition has many of the same symptoms as bursitis, and employees and Algonquin worker comp lawyers use the terms interchangeably.

Workers at highest risk for tendinitis are those who fully extend their arms while lifting heavy weights, or who spend a significant portion of their workday with their hands above their heads. Examples include:


  • Stockroom clerks

  • Warehouse workers

  • Retail clerks

  • Dock workers


Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) (nerve injury)

TOS is a condition that compresses nerves and blood vessels in the upper chest, and limits the flow of blood to the body's extremities. Patients report neck and shoulder pain, as well as sudden numbness in the fingers or discoloration in their limbs. If left untreated, poor circulation from TOS can cause even more serious medical problems in the hands and feet.

Constant pressure on the shoulder joints and the thoracic area contributes to the development of TOS. The risk is magnified when workers use their upper bodies to fight heavy resistance or when workers frequently rotate their neck and shoulders, as seen by:


  • Jack-hammer operators

  • Dental hygienists

  • Hairdressers

  • Musicians


The Challenge Of RSI


Algonquin worker comp lawyers seeking compensation for RSI face several challenges, such as:

Timing of the injury

Algonquin worker comp lawyers and their clients have to file their claim based on a specific date of injury. Because RSI occur over time, there is rarely a single date when the injury occurred. In most cases, the date of injury for RSI is assumed to be the date the employee reported pain for the first time or the date the employee first sought medical attention. Employees are encouraged to seek medical attention as soon as possible, and to keep a record of any changes to their condition over time.

Characterizing the injury

Any discrepancy in the employee's description of the injury or the conditions that led to the injury can result in a denial of the claim. In RSI claims, the difficulty in describing the injury, and the fine distinctions between the various diagnoses, sometimes creates mistakes or problems in the employee's medical record.

Location of the injury

RSI result from a number of factors that are present at both work and home. When filing a workers compensation claim for an RSI, the employee will be asked to demonstrate a link between the workplace or working conditions and their injury. The insurance company will use evidence of extra-curricular physical activity, like participation in a softball league, as evidence the injury occurred on the employee's own time.

Despite these hurdles, RSI claims in Illinois and throughout the country are on the rise, as OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recognize the danger RSI pose to worker health.

RSI are unseen injuries that often go unreported until the symptoms are too painful to ignore. Workers have the right to seek compensation for RSI, but should do so as soon as they notice the first symptom.

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