Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2019 at 3:11 pm
Repetitive stress injuries, according to Medical News Today, can affect most every movable part of your body. They are generally associated with repeating the same task over and over again, vibrations, and forceful exertions. Some of the other names for repetitive stress injury (RSI) are repetitive motion disorder, cumulative motion disorder, repetitive motion injury, occupational overuse syndrome, and regional musculoskeletal disorder.
Generally, in both North Carolina and Virginia, repetitive stress injuries do not constitute valid claims. If one claims, for instance, that due to years of heavy lifting one’s back has started to hurt, that claim will be denied by the insurance company as well as by both the Virginia Workers Comp Commission or the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
There are, however, a couple of sets of exceptions carved out in the law.
The first is if the repetitive stress injury is suddenly aggravated by a traumatic event. In Virginia, as long as the doctor can say that the traumatic event caused a “sudden mechanical change” in the injured body part, then this would be a valid injury. Similarly, in North Carolina, a slip, trip or fall that aggravates a repetitive injury would be compensable.
The second set of exceptions relate to some specific injuries that are very common and generally accepted as either occupational diseases or ordinary diseases of life caused by repetitive work trauma.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is perhaps the best- known form of RSI. It is treated as an ordinary disease of life that is an occupational disease. It is a condition, according to Orthoinfo, that occurs when a major nerve to the hand (the median nerve) “is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.” It can be quite painful and generally gets worse over time unless it is treated. For some patients, surgery may be required to take pressure off the median nerve.
CTS is very common in machinist occupations and electrical occupations where repetitive use of the hands is required.
Symptoms often vary depending on the part of the body that is affected.
Many workers don’t’ realize they have an RSI until the damage to their body is significant. By the time they do feel the pain, they need to stop working and get medical help.
Some of the general causes of repetitive stress injuries include:
Psychological stress can worsen RSI.
Some of the causes of RSI that cause workers to lose time off from work and file a workers’ compensation claim include:
Other jobs that are known to cause RSIs include delivery work, plumbing, agricultural work, firefighting, stocking shelves, janitors, maid services, and food processors. Professional athletes and professional musicians also do a lot or work that involves repetitive motions.
The earlier workers begin treatment for an RSI, the better. Doctors will conduct a range of tests depending on the body part that hurts and other factors. These tests include:
Treatments for an RSI include:
The recovery process for surgical and non-surgical treatments can take months or even up to a year.
Unfortunately, other than Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), or aggravation of pre-existing RTS injuries by a single traumatic event, Virginia does not recognize any other repetitive stress injuries as valid, compensable injuries or an occupational disease.
In North Carolina, the legislature has carved out a few specific, repetitive stress injuries that are recognized as specific, valid, occupational diseases.
In addition, in North Carolina, (not in Virginia) repetitive stress injuries can sometimes be classified as occupational diseases and be compensable IF they are proven to be caused by things that are characteristic and peculiar to the employment of the injured person and excluding ordinary diseases of life to which the public is equally exposed. An example is a cameraman who develops a rotator cuff injury over time. His job requires him to carry the heavy camera on his shoulder every day, and if the doctor supports it, this would be an example of a compensable RTS injury in North Carolina.
One should proceed with caution, however. These types of North Carolina “ordinary disease of life” cases are notoriously difficult to prove. The doctor must not only say that the work caused the issue, but that it was NOT caused by exposure to repetitive stress outside of work. For some jobs, such as daily work with a jackhammer, the proof may be clear. For other jobs, such as computer work, an insurance company may argue that your off-duty typing or exposure to other, off duty activities caused the RSI.
There are, however, some RTS diseases in North Carolina that are specifically listed by the legislature as an occupational disease.
The RTS diseases that are specifically listed in North Carolina General Statute Sec. 97-53 as compensable occupational diseases are:
Examples of repetitive stress injuries that might be compensable in North Carolina, (but not in Virginia) depending on the proof of facts, are:
If you have a workers’ compensation claim because of a repetitive stress injury, Virginia and North Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq., will explain your legal rights. In most cases, unless you fall into one of the exceptions listed above, there is a good chance you may not have a case. But if you have a valid work injury claim, he’ll work with your doctors to determine your full health condition. In some cases, he may recommend that you see other doctors who are approved by the state workers’ compensation organizations. To learn if you have a claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 888-667-8295. or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment. Joe Miller has been fighting for injured workers for more than 31 years.