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Common movements cause an uncommonly painful medical condition

Stretching up, reaching for something, bending over to pick something up or file it away, pulling open a drawer or bin, pushing something into place, gripping a lever or even hitting a button -- none of that sounds particularly dangerous.

As a single action, none of them probably are all that dangerous to a healthy adult.

However, there are seven different factors that can turn any sort of common movement into a recipe for a repetitive strain injury (RSI):

  1. The number of times you have to repeat the same action or actions using the same joints or body parts
  2. The amount of manual force necessary to complete the action each time
  3. The need to repeat the movements rapidly
  4. Insufficient break times to allow muscles to heal and repair themselves before more damage is done
  5. Being obliged to work in an unnatural or cramped position
  6. Excessively hot or cold working conditions, both of which affect the way that musculoskeletal injuries develop and heal
  7. Vibration, which can add additional injuries to the musculoskeletal system in the form of micro-tears

If any combination of these factors sounds familiar, you're at risk for a repetitive motion injury (RMI).

Whether you're a computer programmer or you handle a jackhammer, your jobs have some of the same things in common -- the need for speed, the repetitive motion, an obligation to work long hours often in an unnatural position and all too often, not enough time to take a break from your work.

How do you know if you're developing a problem?

  • First, recognize that chronic pain, numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, limbs or joints is not a normal part of aging. They're a sign something is seriously wrong.
  • Second, realize that you should not feel a sense of strain or pain in your muscles and joints once work is over and you've had a little rest. If the pain is haunting your nights and weekends, you already have a problem.

If you suspect that you may have developed an RMI due to your work activities, see a doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. An attorney can also provide information about your right to workers' compensation benefits, especially if you feel that continuing to work the job is compromising your health and safety.

Source: Safety Health, "What you need to know about MSDs," Sep. 24, 2017

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