Overexertion is a leading cause of workplace accidents and workplace incidents. For some workers, that one extra push or pull can cause a serious injury. For many workers, the cumulative effect of lifting and carrying can take a toll on the body. For other workers, just one day when a worker does more than his/her normal physical capacity can cause physical harm.
Many overexertion injuries affect the back and can result in chronic pain. Other injuries such as sprains and strains may heal with time and proper medical care.
But let’s be quite clear from the start. For the most part, cumulative or repetitive injuries that result from repeated exertion over time are generally NOT compensable under workers compensation. In most cases, you must show an “injury by accident” that occurred at a definite point in time, in order to recover.
The one other exception can be carpal tunnel syndrome, since this injury is almost always related to repetitive work with vibratory machinery or hand tools.
What types of injuries are caused by workplace overexertion?
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 255,000 workers were injured in 2020 due to overexertion. 7 workers died. The NSC states that overexertion is the second leading cause (22 percent) of nonfatal injuries or illnesses – requiring time off from work.
Common workplace activities due to excessive physical effort include lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, and throwing. Overexertion injuries that can cause injuries or illness also include bending, twisting, kneeling, climbing, crawling, and reaching. Even walking or running can result in overexertion injuries. Overexertion injuries also include repetitive stress injuries such as typing, repeat use of tools such as screwdrivers, medical instruments, knives, and musical instruments.
Some of the workers most likely to suffer overexertion injuries include construction workers, assembly line workers, paramedics, materials handlers, warehouse workers, transportation workers, retail employees, manufacturing workers, and many other professions.
What types of injuries does overexertion cause?
The most common type of overexertion injury that workers in North Carolina and Virginia who overexert themselves suffer is a sprain. Sprains cause damage to the ligaments – the part of the anatomy that binds bones to other bones.
Sprains are normally categorized as first-degree (little swelling with mild pain and some dysfunction), second-degree (partial tearing, swelling, moderate dysfunction, and pain), and third-degree (a complete ligament tear or rupture, severe pain, and bodily dysfunction – that may require surgery). Sprains can affect the back, shoulder, upper extremities, and other parts of the body.
Other possible injuries due to overexertion include:
- Strains. According to the Mayo Clinic: “The difference between a sprain and a strain is that a sprain injures the bands of tissue that connect two bones together, while a strain involves an injury to a muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.”
- Broken bones. Fractures include simple, compound, and complex fractures. Fractures generally can be treated with a cast or through surgery. Most fractures take from just a few weeks to more than a year to fully heal. Some fractures never fully heal. Fractures are diagnosed based on the pattern of the break, the cause of the fractures, and the location of the fracture. Broken bones may be open or closed and displaced vs. non-displaced.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This medical disorder causes pain, weakness, and numbness, in the hands and wrists.
- Tendonitis. Tendinitis is inflammation of the thick fibrous cords (tendons) that attach muscle to bone. Tendonitis causes pain and tenderness just outside the joint.
Workers who overexert themselves often suffer fatigue which can cause accidents because a worker can’t pay full attention to his/her job.
Overexertion may also cause dehydration, or even heatstroke, heart attack, and death, especially when workers are working outdoors under extreme heat conditions.
In those circumstances, because the injured worker has not suffered an injury per se, the matter may be treated as an occupational disease, which can be more difficult to prove.
How can the risk of overexertion be reduced?
There are many steps employers and employees can take to reduce the risk of overexertion injuries. Please know that fault is not an issue when you need to file a workers’ compensation claim due to overexertion. If your injury or illness is due to your work, you’re an employee, and you need time off from work to treat your injuries; you should have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Still, preventing injuries in the first place is the best option. Some overexertion preventive strategies include:
- Follow proper safety protocols when working with heavy machines or equipment
- Plan ahead
- Limit how much weight you carry or lift
- Use proper lifting techniques
- Ask for assistance if it is clear an item is too heavy
- Use the proper equipment to move and reach for items
- Do stretch exercises before starting any strenuous task
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a nutritious meal prior to work
- Get the sleep you need
- Use ergonomic work environments
- Take appropriate rest breaks
- Get acclimatized before working a job requiring exposure to extreme heat
What benefits can I receive if overexertion causes a workplace accident?
Workers who suffer overexertion injuries—assuming the injury is not one that occurs over time, but occurs at a specific point in time— may need treatment from emergency room doctors, family physicians, orthopedists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, and other types of healthcare providers.
If you cannot work due to an overexertion injury, you have the right to claim the following benefits:
- Medical compensation. Payment for all your medical care for as long as the care improves your work injury and is medically necessary.
- Temporary total disability benefits. Generally injured or ill workers can claim wage loss benefits up to 2/3rd of their average weekly wages for up to a maximum of 500 weeks.
- Permanent partial disability benefits. If an overexertion injury causes permanent damage to a specific body part, even if you are able to return to your job, you still may be entitled to some additional compensation benefits if the body part is given and appropriate permanency rating by your doctor.
Workers should seek prompt medical care. You also have a duty to provide your employer with notice of your injury within a short time (generally up to 30 days) from the date of whatever accident or incident started your health problems.
At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer understand the unique issues and challenges involved with overexertion claims. He’s helped thousands of workers obtain strong settlements and awards. He’ll work with your doctors to verify your injuries, the type of medical care you need, and explain why you cannot work. To speak with a respected workers’ compensation lawyer who has been fighting for work injury victims for 30 years, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or complete my online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Our law firm does have a way for you to provide your details of your accident and injuries if you simply want to do that electronically from the comfort and safety of your home at any time of day or night. To utilize this service, simply click here: New Electronic Case Review.
We’ll get back to you, typically within 24 hours to provide our response as to whether your situation is one where we can provide you with legal representation. If we require more information, we’ll contact you and ask for that information in order to make that determination as to whether we are the best folks to assist you. If we ultimately determine that we cannot represent or assist you, we will not leave you high and dry. We’ll do our best to provide you with other resources to assist you.