28 Jun, 2024

Which Repetitive Stress Injuries May Qualify for Workers’ Comp?

Author Todd A. Strong

Carpal tunnel syndrome, stress fractures, tendonitis, trigger finger, cubital tunnel syndrome, and back strains and sprains are some examples of repetitive stress injuries that may be eligible for workers’ comp in Peoria and Chicago, Illinois. Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) develop when a worker uses the same group of muscles repeatedly to complete work tasks. RSI often damages nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles. Affected workers experience pain or tenderness, tingling, cramps, aching, and muscle weakness.

You must show that your repetitive stress injury stemmed from the job tasks you perform, or those tasks worsened the injury, to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Doing that can be a challenging task, as RSIs rarely manifest visible symptoms. Employers and their insurers often contest these claims, alleging that the injuries did not arise from the job, or they were pre-existing. Fortunately, workers’ compensation attorneys know the type of medical evidence required to prove that your repetitive stress injury is work-related and can help maximize your workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ comp lawyers at Strong Law Offices can help you obtain the compensation you need to regain some form of normalcy after suffering a work-related repetitive stress injury. Call 309-688-5297 to request a free case review.

Wrist, arm and pain by laptop desk of employee worker suffering from carpal tunnel. repetitive stress injuries
Wrist, arm and pain by laptop desk of employee worker suffering from carpal tunnel. repetitive stress injuries

Most Common Types of Repetitive Stress Injuries

Work-related repetitive stress injuries typically take the following forms:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common office worker injuries. This condition causes pain, tingling, numbness, aching, and weakness in your wrist and hand. The carpal tunnel is a thin passageway in your wrist bone that houses nerves, tendons, and ligaments that extend to your hand. The syndrome develops when something inflames or compresses the median nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel.

About 3 of every 1000 individuals in the U.S. develop carpal tunnel syndrome every year. In Illinois, this condition mostly affects mechanics, data entry workers, and employees who use smaller hand tools to perform their work duties.

Tendonitis

This condition happens when a tendon swells due to inflammation or irritation. Tendons are parts of tissues connecting muscles and bones that facilitate movement. This condition often develops after you perform the same range of motion over and over again. It usually affects the knees, hips, elbows, biceps, and shoulders.

It is characterized by pain and tenderness at the affected joint, often close to where the tendon connects to the bone. The pain and tenderness usually worsen when you use the affected tendons to perform work-related activities. The skin around the inflamed tendon may also turn red.

Trigger Finger

This repetitive stress injury occurs when the sheath encircling the tendon in a finger inflames. The inflammation forces the finger to remain in a bent position. The finger may also straighten with a clicking sound akin to a trigger getting pulled or released.

A trigger finger may arise from job activities that require pushing and pulling heavy loads, the use of small hand tools like jackhammers, and lifting heavy objects repeatedly. It may also develop from administrative or office tasks involving mouse clicking and typing repeatedly. The condition can attack any finger, but it commonly affects the thumb and ring finger.

Bursitis

Bursitis is a painful inflammation of a bursa, a fluid-filled sac that lubricates body parts prone to friction. The human body has over 150 bursae, the majority of which are existent at birth. Some bursae develop over time in parts of the body experiencing great levels of musculoskeletal stress.

Bursitis mostly affects the knees, hips, and elbows. It causes a restricted range of motion and painful sensation around the affected part. The affected part may also become swollen and red. You may also experience a “crunching” feeling when you attempt to move the inflamed joint.

Back Strains and Sprains

A back strain occurs when the tendons or muscles of your back get injured. A back sprain, on the other hand, happens when a ligament gets stretched or develops wear and tear. Back strains can develop when you perform tasks that cause your back muscles or tendons to twist or pull. The strain becomes chronic after long-term, repetitive twisting or pulling of the muscles and tendons.

Back sprains and strains often result in a general, throbbing pain throughout the lower back. Sometimes, the pain is on only one side. You may have a hard time standing upright or bending your back. You may also experience an irregular muscle spasm when performing tasks that involve curling or twisting your back.

Stress Fractures

A stress fracture is a tiny bone fracture. Stress fractures occur when something exerts too much pressure on your bone. They are sometimes called overuse injuries because they develop when you use the same body part repeatedly. Any repetitive movement or activity that exerts force on your bones can trigger a stress fracture to develop.

Stress fractures are common among the bones that bear your body weight during movement or upright posture. You may suffer a stress fracture in your heel, foot, or lower leg. These fractures may affect the hips, hands, wrists, or even the lower back. Symptoms of these injuries include swelling, pain that begins and worsens during physical activity, and tenderness close to the affected bone.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when something irritates or squeezes your ulnar nerve at the elbow. This squeezing or irritation may stem from putting pressure on the elbow when you lean on one arm while performing work-related duties. It can also arise from recurrent nerve stretching when you bend your elbow for a long time.

Cubital tunnel syndrome can also develop because of an injury caused by performing the same motion repeatedly. Symptoms of this condition include occasional numbness in your fingers and hand, pain at the elbow, and irregular tingling sensation in your fingers and hands.

Qualifying for Workers’ Comp in Illinois for Repetitive Stress Injuries

People who have suffered repetitive motion injuries because of their work duties may wonder, “Am I eligible for workers’ compensation benefits? You may obtain workers’ compensation benefits if you provide convincing evidence that your RSI resulted from a repetitive activity related to your work.

Most employers and their insurance providers will aggressively contest RSI workers’ comp claims. They will try to find alternative explanations for your repetitive stress injuries. They may allege the injury stemmed from age, underlying medical conditions like arthritis or diabetes, or a nonwork related activity like playing tennis or the violin.

You don’t have to show that your current work is fully responsible for your RSI. Demonstrating that performing repetitive tasks in your current job worsened your injuries is enough to qualify for workers’ comp benefits in Illinois.

Steps to Take if You Have a Repetitive Stress Injury

Knowing the steps to take if you have a repetitive stress injury can better your chances of receiving the workers’ compensation benefits you need to address your financial obligations. These steps include:

Keeping a Log of Your Injury

Keep a record of workplace conditions you suspect may have caused your RSI. Document the number of hours you have performed a specific work task or activity, when the pain started, and how the pain advanced. Note whether the pain disappeared when you stopped performing this task but resumed immediately after you began performing that task again.

Documentation is essential for the success of a workers’ compensation claim. Notes about the pain level you are going through and how it impacts your ability to work can help strengthen your claim.

Seeing a Doctor

Seek medical help soon after you start experiencing symptoms of a repetitive stress injury. Inform your medical provider that you believe your injury stemmed from your employment. Also, tell your doctor when you started experiencing the symptoms, how the symptoms have changed over time, and what type of tasks you do at work.

Your doctor will prescribe a treatment program that may help alleviate your RSI symptoms. This treatment program may constitute steroid shots, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary if your RSI has worsened.

Besides bettering your prognosis, seeing a doctor allows documentation of your injury. Medical bills, invoices, and prescription records can help prove that you sought treatment for your injuries. A doctor’s report linking your RSI to your job-related duties can also increase your chances of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.

Report the Injury to Your Supervisor or Employer

People with work-related injuries may wonder, “Is there a time limit for reporting a workplace injury.” Each state has a timeline within which injured workers must inform their employers of their injuries. Illinois gives you 45 days from when the injury happened to report it to your supervisor or employer. You can submit an oral or written injury report.

Meeting the reporting requirement for a repetitive strain injury can be quite challenging. RSIs usually develop gradually over a long period of performing repetitive work activities. As such, determining the exact date when your injury happened can be an arduous task. That’s why you should seek medical assistance soon after you begin experiencing RSI symptoms.

Your 45-day reporting period should start after your physician determines you have an RSI. Don’t wait until the last day to report your RSI. Instead, submit a written injury report immediately after your doctor diagnoses you with the injury.

Seek Legal Support

Hire a workers’ comp lawyer with a demonstrated record of success in workers’ compensation cases soon after a doctor diagnoses you with RSI. Repetitive stress injuries are costly to treat and cause affected workers to miss work. So, insurance companies use every trick up their sleeve to reduce the benefits or deny the claims altogether.

A skilled lawyer can take on rogue insurance companies and counter their tricks. Your lawyer will compile sufficient medical evidence to bolster your claim. The lawyer will assemble medical proof by obtaining medical records, connecting you with the right doctors, and getting medical opinions from your doctor. The lawyer will also depose medical professionals and represent you if the defense legal team decides to depose you.

Other forms of evidence that could prove helpful include:

  • Documentation of your repetitive work-related tasks
  • An expert witness testimony regarding the physical demands of your job
  • Statements from your coworkers about the impact of your injuries on your ability to work
  • Statements from your loved ones regarding your daily activities.

Your workers’ comp lawyer will also act on your behalf during settlement talks with your employer’s insurer. The lawyer will start by determining the amount of benefits entitled to you before engaging the insurance company in settlement agreement negotiations.

The value of your case will depend on your injury severity, the effect on your ability to work, and all your medical costs. Other factors that impact your claim value include your pre-injury average weekly wages and the severity of your permanent disability, especially if your RSI has left you with lifelong impairments.

Besides obtaining a reasonable settlement, your lawyer will carefully review and amend the settlement agreement before you sign it. The objective here is to remove clauses or language that may bring problems for you in the future.

An administrative hearing or trial will be necessary if negotiations do not yield a reasonable settlement. Your lawyer will prepare your case adequately by obtaining medical records, conducting legal research, deposing witnesses, and filing motions and relevant paperwork on time.

Your lawyer will then lay out your case before the workers’ comp judge and object when the other side says or does something inappropriate. The lawyer will also handle the appeal if you are displeased with the hearing outcome.

You can trust workers’ compensation attorneys at Strong Law Offices to help you get full and fair compensation after developing a job-related repetitive stress injury. We have more than 25 years of experience in assisting workers with work-related injuries to recover adequate compensation. We work on a contingency fee basis and are available for a free initial consultation. Contact us today for legal assistance.

About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023
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About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023