If your job requires you to do the same, or similar motions over and over again, and you begin to feel constant pain in your muscles and joints, you may be experiencing repetitive trauma. The good news is that in most cases, as long as your condition is directly related to your position, you’re likely to receive workers’ compensation. But first, let’s explain what repetitive trauma really is.

What is repetitive trauma?

Repetitive trauma—officially known as repetitive motion disorder or RMD—happens when a muscle is strained by performing the same task over and over. Most often, RMDs are job-specific; for example, carpal tunnel syndrome most often affects employees who spend much of their time typing at a computer. These conditions can be mild or severe, and cause either temporary or permanent damage to muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments

What are some common types of RMDs?

The two most common repetitive motion disorders are tendonitis and bursitis. They are different, but have many symptoms in common, and can often exist at the same time.

  • Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone). There are tendons throughout the body, but the most common sites of tendonitis are the shoulder, the biceps, and the elbow (often called “tennis elbow”). Tendonitis can also include a condition known as tenosynovitis—inflammation of the tendon’s covering. Studies suggest that this form of inflammation may be linked to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist (the most common of all RMDs), but it hasn’t yet been proven.
  • Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa—small sacs that cushion the area between tendon and bone. Repetitive bursa irritation is the most common type of bursitis and is often the result of long-term pressure on a joint. Bursitis can occur anywhere bursa pressure is frequent, but two of the most common forms of repetitive bursa irritation are:
    • Shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis) caused by the pinching of the shoulder bursa by the rotator cuff tendon and the adjacent bone
    • Hip bursitis (trochanteric bursitis) from weak hip muscles

How are RMDs treated?

RMDs seem similar to the normal strain of daily life, but they can cause greater complications which require prompt treatment. Treatment may include:

  • Extended rest and reduced motion
  • Medications including pain relievers, cortisone, and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Physical therapy
  • Plus, in some cases you may need to stop working for a while to recover fully

RMDs become increasingly dangerous the longer they go untreated. While a sore wrist may seem harmless at first, without treatment RMDs may result in lasting injury and loss of function.

How can I find out if I have an RMD?

To diagnose tendonitis, a doctor listens to your pain history and performs a physical exam. If your pain interferes with your daily activity, disturbs your sleep, or makes moving your arms or legs difficult, call your doctor and make an appointment. In addition to the examination, your doctor may order an MRI scan to look for tears, ruptures, or inflammation of the tendon.

Bursitis, which can sometimes become infected, is also diagnosed through a physical examination. However, fluid may be drained from your joint to check for bacteria.

RMDs are serious conditions which require proper medical attention. If you are in any way concerned about pain you may be experiencing in your joints, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

What do I have to do to be compensated?

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, RMDs are usually eligible for compensation. To receive payment, first establish a “date of accident,” which means the date you were diagnosed and discovered the relationship between the pain and your employment, or the last day you worked before the RMD resulted in disability. You must provide notice of trauma within 45 days, but the “grayness” of the area makes this requirement flexible in your favor.

Because it can be difficult to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship with RMDs, and there is a lot of gray area, it’s a good idea contact an experienced lawyer to help manage your case. Contact the Epstein Law Firm for a free consultation!

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