Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits

November 16, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) cause hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of American workers chronic problems and may account for a sizable percentage of a North Carolina workers’ compensation claims. But what are RSIs? And how can workers prevent and treat them most effectively?

Theories abound to explain how workers develop conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tendonitis. Obviously, the etiology is complex and this blog is not prepared to offer medical advice in any way; however, a look at the dominant theories reveals much.

One school of thought considers and treats the different manifestations of repetitive stress induced trauma. For instance, a worker who complains of neck pain resulting from a typing injury may get treatment directly at the source of the pain — for instance, massage, cortisone injections, or doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain.

Another school of thought suggests that many RSI injuries result from systemic damage to the musculoskeletal system and that repairing the damage requires a broader approach. In other words, a pain in the neck that results from a typing injury may represent essentially the tip of the iceberg. The injury/insult may in fact be to the entire upper thoracic region, including perhaps the arms, chest, upper back, lower back, hands, and so forth. Moreover, the insult is not simply to muscle or nerve tissue but ultimately to the entire musculoskeletal apparatus, including connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Treatment thus focuses on a variety of modalities, including massage, trigger point therapy, stretching, resting, chiropractic, and improved posture and ergonomic practices.

Many occupations predispose to repetitive stress injuries. These include,

• Computer work
• Assembly line work
• Sewing
• Hairstyling
• Office/managerial work
• Any job that involves lifting or sorting (e.g. Postal Service work)
• Design work
• Craft work
• Any job that requires an employee to hold a position for many hours at a time — including waitressing (standing), truck driving (sitting), and athletic employment (running, twisting, etc).

Perhaps a majority of the working population in North Carolina and throughout the country may be subjected to repetitive work related traumas that can result in injury. Corrective measures can include workstation changes (to make a computer station more ergonomic, for instance); institutionalized massage therapy; better education about posture and relaxation techniques; reduced hours; enforced break times; and regular continuing education about the dangers and treatment methodologies for RSI.

If you have suffered traumatic injuries due to repetitious work, you may be entitled to significant North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits. It may behoove you to speak with a knowledgeable NC workers’ comp attorney ASAP to learn about your rights and options.

More Web Resources


Deborah Quilter’s RSI book


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