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Tendonitis and Workers Compensation

Many workers in North Carolina and Virginia suffer with and cannot work due to tendonitis. The Mayo Clinic defines tendonitis as “inflammation of the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone.” The cords are known as tendons. Tendonitis can occur in any tendon but is most common around a worker’s shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and heels. While physical therapy and medications are the usual remedies, some tendon inflammation can cause a tear which may require surgery.

The different types of tendonitis include Achilles tendonitis, golfer’s elbow, patellar tendonitis, and tennis elbow.

Common tendonitis symptoms occur where the tendon attaches to the bone. Symptoms may include pain (“often described as a dull ache, especially when moving the hurt limb or joint”), mild swelling, and tenderness.

Common causes of tendonitis include an injury, and repetitive motions that place a lot of stress on the tendons. Jobs that involve the same repeat motions, age, and doing certain physical activities improperly are common causes of tendonitis. Manual labor can cause tendonitis if the motions are repetitive, in awkward positions, forced, due to vibrations, or if there is a lot of overhead reaching.

Repetitive Stress Injuries are Generally NOT Compensable as Workers Compensation

It must be said as clearly as possible that unfortunately, if the tendonitis is due to repetitive motions or stress from the work of a job that occurs over time (typically many years) that is NOT going to be a compensable claim, unless the repetitive stress injury involves carpal tunnel syndrome, which is often recognized as an occupational disease. In addition, the Industrial Commission has carved out an exception for bursitis as a classified occupational disease “due to intermittent pressure in employment.” Bursitis is an inflammation of one of the fluid sacs inside your joints, and it typically occurs in the elbow, shoulder, hip, or knee.

That being said, if it can be shown that the tendinitis originated from a sudden, traumatic injury that occurred at work, then if that sudden injury occurred as a result of a compensable injury by accident, then the developing tendonitis would be considered part of that injury, and likely covered by workers compensation.

Some of the factors that increase the risk of tendinitis include:

  • “Sudden increase in amount or difficulty of training
  • Poor equipment, such as old shoes
  • Hard surfaces, such as concrete or gym floors
  • Too little recovery time after an injury or too little time to get used to the activity again after time off
  • Poor posture or body movements”

Certain medications, such as diabetes medications, increase the risk of tendonitis. Cortisone (a corticosteroid), fluoroquinolone (an antibiotic), and aromatase inhibitors (used to lower breast cancer) are also risk factors for tendonitis.

If tendonitis is not treated in a timely and correct manner, the tendon could tear or break down. Torn tendons may require surgery.

Recommendations for preventing tendonitis

The Mayo Clinic has these suggestions for the prevention of tendonitis:

  • Go easy. Workers should stay away from activities that place a lot of stress on the tendons, especially for long stretches of time. If you’re in pain, stop and rest.
  • Review how your move. The way you lift, push, pull, carry, and perform other tasks should use the proper technique. Check with your supervisor and co-workers to be sure you’re doing your job tasks correctly.
  • Stretch. It does help to stretch after you move or exercise.
  • Use good ergonomics. Be sure that your desktop, keyboard, and chair are in the correct positions for your arm length and height if you do computer work. Review all other ergonomic factors that can help place less stress on your tendons if you do any type of repetitive activity.

Workers should also stay in shape and strengthen the muscles they use in their job tasks.

How is tendonitis diagnosed and treated?

The Mayo Clinic states that doctors usually conduct a physical examination to determine if you have tendonitis. Your physician may also order an X-ray and other imaging tests – mostly to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

The treatments for tendonitis often include rest, ice, and pain medications. The recovery time for tendonitis can take several months – and that’s if there are no complications.

The medications used for tendonitis include:

  • Pain relievers. “Aspirin, naproxen sodium (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may relieve tendinitis pain.” Some of these medications can upset your stomach and cause liver or kidney problems. Many tendonitis patients use creams with pain relievers that are applied to the skin instead of being taken orally.
  • Steroids. A steroid shot around a tendon may help relieve pain but shouldn’t be used if tendinitis lasts for more than three months. “Repeated steroid shots can weaken a tendon and increase the risk of the tendon tearing.”
  • Platelet-rich plasma. This treatment uses some of your own blood and then spins the blood – “to separate out the platelets and other healing factors.” “The solution is then injected into the area of chronic tendon irritation.” While further research is necessary to show the effectiveness of this treatment, PRP is showing some promise for treating chronic tendonitis.

Many workers with tendonitis benefit from physical therapy exercises that help strengthen the muscle and tendons. “Eccentric strengthening, which emphasizes contraction of a muscle while it’s lengthening, is an effective treatment for many chronic tendon conditions/”

Other remedies for tendonitis include dry needling (usually “performed with ultrasound” which “involves making small holes in the tendon with a fine needle to stimulate factors involved in tendon healing”) and surgical repair for torn tendons.

At-home treatments include rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

  • Rest. This means workers should stop doing the things that increase their pain such as working. While being confined to bed shouldn’t be required, stopping these painful activities should be a priority. Some gentle movement can help stiffness from setting in. Swimming and water exercise are often good options.
  • Ice. Using ice for up to 20 minutes a few times a day can help decrease pain, muscle spasms, and swelling. Ice packs, ice massages, and slush baths with ice and water may help. For example, you could “freeze a paper cup full of water so that you can hold the cup while applying the ice directly to the skin.”
  • Compression. Swelling can affect the ability to move an injured joint. Compression wraps, such as elastic bandages, may help.
  • Elevation. “If tendinitis affects your knee, raise the hurt leg above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.”

At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation attorney has been fighting for injured workers for 30 years. He’s helped thousands of injured workers obtain just recoveries. He’ll fight for all the compensation you deserve and work with your doctors to contest any effort by your employer to force you back to work before you’re healthy. To talk with a respected lawyer, call Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or complete my online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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