Whether you sit at a computer all day or work with heavy industrial tools, repetitive stress injuries are a real concern that can have lasting damage. It's easy to dismiss a little joint stiffness or a sore back, but with time that minor irritation can become a real burden and your work may be the root cause.
What is RSI
Carpal tunnel is one of the most recognized forms of repetitive stress injury but it's far from the only one. Nerves, joints, and tendons are all damaged by repetition, whether in an office setting or by physical labor. Running the same saw or operating the same machinery day in and day out wears at the body in harsh ways, especially when working in uncomfortable and unergonomic positions. Some key causes are repetition, pinching, gripping, and exerting force and working in awkward postures.
When to seek help
"I'm just a little sore," you say. "It's part of the job."
Perhaps that's true, but does the pain go away when the work stops? If not, there should be serious concern. If you've tried taking a break from activities but the soreness remains, or if you've tried performing the same tasks in new ways but the pain is steady or growing worse, it's time to seek medical attention.
Diagnosing RSI is one of the hardest parts. There are a few common ailments like carpal tunnel and tendonitis, but other pains such as nerve damage can take more time and tests to identify. Like most injuries, prevention is easier than treatment.
If the injury is work related, seek the root cause and not just recovery. Otherwise, a return to work will cause the same thing to happen again.
If it's work related, there is also the matter of worker's compensation. It's important to both your health and your finances that you're diagnosed correctly.
When most people think of worker's compensation they think of one-time mishaps rather than injuries sustained over time. An employee is eligible for coverage from any work related injury and your employer should oblige.
Before you can count on that, though, you need a proper diagnosis. Testing takes time and costs money up front, so seeing the right doctor and keeping communication open with your employer is important, and an attorney may be able to guide the process or make recommendations.
RSIs may begin with minor soreness, but the severity can affect even routine daily activities. It's in both your best interest and your employers to make sure you're fully healthy for both your own life and for the job.