Firm-Wide blog

What Are Repetitive Stress Injuries?

By Burg Simpson
February 13, 2020
4 min read

Some workplace injuries are caused during accidents. Think explosions, collapsing equipment, falls from great heights or just your ordinary blown disc in the back. Other workplace injuries are caused by certain repetitive motions that slowly, over time, lead to debilitating pain. These types of injuries go by many different names: repetitive stress, repetitive strain, or repetitive motion injuries.

If you are in pain because of your job, you might wonder whether you can obtain workers’ compensation benefits. The good news is that you often can. Below, we highlight some of the more common repetitive stress injuries and provide tips for how to avoid them.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel is essentially a compression against a nerve in the wrist that can lead to tingling, weakness, and numbness in the hands. The tunnel is created by bones in the wrist and contains nine tendons and the median nerve.

Swelling in the wrist leads to the compression. Although patients might be able to “shake out” the numbness, over time it can become constant. According to Very Well Health, those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome report being unable to do simple tasks with their hands or fingers because of increased clumsiness and a loss of strength and dexterity.

Treatment can be conservative, such as taking anti-inflammatory drugs, or may require surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve.


Tendons connect muscles to bones. However, any repeated motion can put strain on a tendon, leading to inflammation. Many workers experience tendinitis in certain body parts, such as the elbow, wrist, or knees. Pain and swelling are two key symptoms, as is a “cracking” sound made when you move the affected joint. Some people also experience lumps or bulges at the location of the injury.

To treat tendinitis, you typically need to limit the use of the tendon. You may also use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for pain relief.

Ganglion Cyst

A ganglion cyst is a capsule that fills with fluid. They typically appear on the palm, back of the hand or the wrist. A ganglion cyst is not cancerous, but it can certainly lead to pain, numbness, and difficulty gripping objects. If you work with your hands, then a ganglion cyst could make work impossible.

Some ganglion cysts can be drained by using a needle to remove the fluid. Others will require surgical removal.

Preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries at Work

One of the best ways to prevent these types of injuries is to rest. Unfortunately, that is not really an option at most workplaces, where workers have few opportunities to take days off. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to prevent these injuries:

  • Practice good posture. Many people slouch, so try to straighten your shoulders and ensure that your seat is comfortable.
  • Make sure your workstation is set up to minimize strain. You might need to raise your desktop, lower your chair, or make other adjustments. You could also ask for an ergonomic keyboard.
  • Practice regular stretching. Take frequent breaks to stretch out the parts of your body that feel the most tired or that experience numbness or pain.

As always, check with a medical professional for more tailored advice about how to treat your stress injuries.

These are more difficult claims and are often denied by the insurance company. If you are having this type of problem, you need to report it to the supervisor or HR administrator. If your job requires you to make the same movement over and over it can cause these types of problems, and there may be a way to modify the position so that it doesn’t put strain on that body part. Frequently no accommodation will be made so it is important to not wait too long to report the problem and get some treatment.

If a repetitive stress injury prevents you from working, you might qualify for Colorado workers’ compensation benefits. Speak with an attorney at Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. for more information. You can call (303) 792-5595 for a free case evaluation.

Free case evaluation form